Jamey Petree, the father of a young African American student in Detroit is planning to sue the school district because he claims that his daughter was racially harassed when the teacher read excerpts to the class from a book about slavery. The teacher read portions of “From Slave Ship to Freedom Road” by Julius Lester. Petree claims his daughter was subjected to harassment because the racial characterizations in the book negatively affected her emotional and mental well-being. He is seeking more than $50,000 in damages.
The district is fighting back saying they will vigorously defend the suit, if and when it is filed. The school says that the material read to the 5th grade class was just one of many other materials the children was exposed to in preparation for Black History Month.
It is interesting to note that the book is entitled “From Slave Ship to Freedom Road” which seems to imply that it is a book that explores both the adversity that slaves faced, as well as the triumphant journey to freedom. As a society, we expect schools to educate children on the history of this country and paint a holistic picture while doing so.
So should schools really have to censor or omit potentially offensive parts of history to cater to individual sensitivities? If schools do omit potentially offensive portions of history, are they opening themselves up to liability by supposedly painting an inaccurate picture of our nation’s past? Stay tuned folks.