A high School skit in Missouri ended with a teacher being suspended and a few students, along with their parents, being outraged.
It all started with a simple skit that dealt with historical events in a classroom. The history teacher who came up with the idea of creating realistic approaches to understanding history thought that allowing a student to wear a KKK costume would somehow make the skit more believable. He was right.
The costume was considered a part of a “study group presentation” that would focus its attention on the 15th amendment (which gave African-American the right to vote), but it went awry the moment another student took a photo of the outfit and posted it on social media, according to The Springfield News-Leader.
“As part of the presentation, students discussed the adverse historical actions of certain organizations that actively engaged in the suppression of voter rights,” said the teacher in his attempt to explain the relevance of his decision. Unfortunately, this was not enough. He was suspended shortly after a few students shared the post, which was then reshared by their angry parents.
Did everyone overreact on this one?
We send our children to school to learn about events that aren’t always so nice or comfortable. When a teacher attempts to create ways to assist in the child’s learning, it can get a bit sticky. The moment the 9th-grade history teacher to allow the KKK costume to be worn, he didn’t realize that he was opening wombs that have yet to heal. All he wanted to do was help the students understand the significance of the movement, not relive it. Proof of this is in his letter of apology which says:
“I want to sincerely apologize for the pain and negative attention that I have brought to our classroom, school, and community,” states the letter written by the teacher. “I made a mistake on Friday during our skit assignment. I let a student wear an inappropriate costume that was unacceptable and hurt many people’s feelings. As the professional in the room, I should have known better. I’m sorry.”
The superintendent of the Poplar Bluff district where the school is located visited the classroom and continued the apology, although he continued to explain how he knew the teacher meant no harm.
This is a tough call because this costume was worn during a skit. Do we get upset when they wear the same costumes in movies or television shows that depict a time in American history that isn’t so great? We focus our attention on punishing others when they remind us of the horrific events that occurred in America, and the nasty history of inhumane treatment among African-Americans. By punishing the teacher, we told the students that this is not something that we should look at because it’s so wrong. True, it is indeed wrong. However, the ugly of it all is exactly what needs to be seen time and time again if need be. Sometimes this is what it takes to ensure that hatred, evil, and nastiness is prevented in the future. The parents and the school board could have used that moment as an opportunity to really have an honest talk with the students about the feelings that conjured up as a result of the costume, rather than merely pushing away the point of the exercise.
What do you think? Is this a situation that only African-Americans can address because they were the victims of the KKK movement? Is this something that was an innocent lapse in judgment, and if so, does that even matter? Open communication without fear is the only key that will open the door to our unity as a people…regardless of color.