Parents are outraged at a New York school district after a teacher distributed a cartoon that compares police to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The cartoon was allegedly part of a social studies assignment regarding recent Black Lives Matter protests throughout the country. However, parents who felt the cartoon went too far have urged the school district to open an investigation into the matter.
Cartoon Compares Police To KKK
Westlake High School teacher Christopher Moreno reportedly included the cartoon in a September 8 handout to his 11th-grade class in Westchester. Across five panels, it depicted white men kneeling on the necks of black men throughout the ages. The first three panels depicted slavers and Klansmen kneeling on the men, while the last two had police officers in the same position.
Throughout the cartoon, the black men gasp, “I can’t breathe” — reportedly George Floyd’s last words as he was killed by police. That May incident marked the beginning of widespread protests throughout the country.
Parents, students and police have criticized Moreno’s inclusion of the cartoon in his lesson.
“My daughter showed me the paper,” area mom Ania Paternostro told the New York Post. “I said, ‘What is this?! You’ve got to be kidding me!’ This cartoon compares the police to the KKK. It’s an attack on the police.”
Paternostro’s daughter, Nicole, also disapproved. “The cartoon was disgusting,” she said. “It compared the police with all the terrible people in history. It was not fair. It wasn’t right.”
Members of the area’s law enforcement community condemned the cartoon as an attack on police.
“It’s a smack in the face to law enforcement, it’s absolutely a smear on police,” retired police officer Steve Kardian told the Post.
The Mount Pleasant School District responded to the controversy by assuring parents that they would investigate the matter.
“I want to assure the community that the district will be conducting a thorough investigation to determine what exactly occurred in this particular classroom and what, if any, action is to be taken under the circumstances to appropriately address the matter,” Superintendent Kurt Kotes said in a letter to parents.
More Teachers Compare Police To KKK
This isn’t the first time the same cartoon has sparked a controversy in the classroom this year. In August, a school in Wylie, Texas caused a similar outcry by handing out assignments featuring the cartoon. The assignment asked students to think about what the cartoon said “about US history and the death of George Floyd,” according to Newsweek.
8th grade teachers in a school outside of Dallas, TX (@WylieISD) gave students a home work assignment comparing police officers to slave owners and the KKK.— Joe Gamaldi (@JoeGamaldi) August 20, 2020
This is abhorrent and disgusting, and only further widens the gap between police officers and the youth in our community. pic.twitter.com/ELfbjWQu9Z
Joe Gamaldi, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, shared the cartoon to Twitter, calling it “abhorrent and disgusting.” In a later tweet, he added, “what is more disturbing is that no adult within your school thought better before sending this assignment to children.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott also spoke out, calling the comparison between police and Klansmen “unacceptable.”
“It’s the opposite of what must be taught,” he tweeted. “The teacher should be fired.”
A teacher in a Texas public school comparing police officers to the KKK is beyond unacceptable.— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) August 23, 2020
It’s the opposite of what must be taught.
The teacher should be fired.
I’m asking the Texas Education Agency to investigate and take action. https://t.co/DsCdp4fFaB
Parents reportedly flooded Wylie Independent School District’s Facebook page with angry comments, often calling for those involved with the assignment to be dismissed.
“Thank you for doing the right thing,” one commenter said of the district’s decision to remove the assignment. “Please discipline all those involved with this propaganda.”
A Different Point of View
However, some parents felt that the public outcry took the cartoon out of context.
“They’re not saying that it’s right or wrong. They’re not even giving their judgement on it,” said Tammy Perdomo, a mom and substitute teacher in the district. “They’re asking our kids to think critically. That’s what we want our kids to do. We want them to be critical thinkers. That’s the job of these teachers.”
Other parents felt that the message of the cartoon was valid but difficult for some to grapple with.
“This is a truth that’s uncomfortable for many,” local mom Kristyn Senters told Fox 4 news. “This picture is depicting years of oppression, and it is showing why we protests, so, to me, it’s a conversation that we need to have.”
The district has not revealed the identity of the teacher behind the assignment, and a spokesperson told Fox 4 that they have fired no teachers as a result of it.
Teacher Compares Police To KKK — Sources
Fox 4 – “Some believe canceled Wylie ISD assignment that likened police to KKK, slave owners was taken out of context”
Fox 4 – “Wylie ISD apologizes for school assignment that likens police officers to KKK, slave owners”
New York Post