Kids in a Houston area school were asked to recite a poem about Barack Obama for Black History month. A parent then complained and school officials pulled the poem from activities.
The students weren’t required to participate according to a letter sent to parents.
Joseph Beaver, a parent of one of the students said “You’re not learning anything from it,” he says. “I can’t sit there and say in 20 years I’m going to need to know his favorite baseball team was this. That’s just useless information.”
However, Sylvester Brown at Houston’s Black Heritage Society thinks parents are taking it out of context.
“Is the teacher using it to express her views?” asks Brown. “I don’t think you can look at it from that side unless you’re specifically looking for something to complain about.”
Sylvester also asks, “If they just sung a song about George Washington in class, would they say the same thing that’s political?” he asks. “I mean, where’s the contrast?”
Beaver still disagrees.
“The ‘cherry tree,’ that teaches morals about trying to tell the truth,” he says. “This poem didn’t teach anything. As a public school system you need to educate people, not teach them little chants and stuff.”
Gayle Fallon, president of Houston’s teachers union says Beaver was in the right to complain.
“Just like you couldn’t put something out advocating a specific religion, you can’t with politics either,” she says.
“If the poem is overtly partisan political which it sounds like, they have a problem,” he says. “If it was just saying we’re having a black history program, it probably would not be a problem.”
School officials said the poem was mailed with a letter about the activity to parents of the children. However, the principal of the school didn’t authorize the letter before it was sent to parents.
Assistant Superintendent Kelli Durham issued a statement to a local news station saying:
“There has been a misunderstanding circulating about kindergarten teachers requiring students to recite a chant at Tipps. This resulted when a teacher inadvertently attached a note, intended for other teachers, to a parent communication that was sent home. A teacher reading the note would understand the inference: only kindergarten students whose parents wanted them to participate were “required” to learn a chant.
However, the chant selected by the kindergarten team of teachers was sent home prior to receiving principal approval. Seeking approval is a school practice for school programs and events. After the principal reviewed the poem, along with the selections that would be performed by students at other grade levels, she selected another activity recognizing President Obama –kindergarten’s historical figure to recognize.
Last week, the count for participants was less than 150 students compared to school wide enrollment of more than 1,000 students, and of those 25 were kindergarten students.”