W.T. White High School in Dallas, Texas is under fire for an essay prompt that suggested 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse is a “hero.” Rittenhouse is being charged with allegedly killing two people and injuring a third during last month’s Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The essay prompt had two parts. The first involved writing a half-page biography on Mahatma Gandhi, César Chávez, Malcolm X, George Floyd, Rittenhouse, and one of Rittenhouse’s alleged victims Joseph Rosenbaum. The next part, however, is what many took issue with as it offered students a chance to explain why Rittenhouse could be considered a hero.
The prompt stated, “Write at least a one-page essay on which of those six persons you believe demonstrates best your concept of a hero.”
Kristina Hernandez tells the Dallas Observer that she was shocked to see the prompt after her brother, a senior at the school, texted her a photo of the assignment. English teacher Paul Ford assigned the essay Monday and posted it to Google Classroom, according to NBC 5. An apparent screenshot of the essay prompt was posted on Facebook on Tuesday.
Essay Sparks Controversy
“It didn’t sit right with him that a white supremacist murderer was on the same page as people he recognized to be important historical figures,” she said.
After Rittenhouse’s involvement with the shooting was publicized, his past social media activity identified him as a right-wing teen who idolizes the police. Several posts expressed his support for the Blue Lives Matter movement, a pro-law enforcement group that emerged in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I don’t think that human rights are up for debate, I don’t think the sanctity of Black lives is up for debate, and that’s what this assignment is basically saying,” Hernandez said.
On Wednesday, the Dallas Independent School District issued an apology for the assignment. District spokeswoman Robyn Harris said administration officials didn’t approve the prompt prior to it being posted. They removed the assignment and according to Harris, will take the “appropriate steps” following an investigation. Ford’s current standing at the school is unclear.
“Racial equity is a top priority in Dallas ISD, and we remain committed to providing a robust teaching environment where all students can learn,” Harris wrote to the Dallas Observer. “It is important that we continue to be culturally sensitive to our diverse populations and provide a space of respect and value.”