On the first day of classes, a high school teacher in Westchester County, New York, issued an assignment that included a comic-style strip comparing police officers to slave owners and Ku Klux Klan members.
The assignment was part of a unit on “European Colonization of America” given by Westlake High School teacher Christopher Moreno to 11th-graders on Sept. 8, the Post reported.
The image showed five versions of the same illustration that depicted one man kneeling on another’s neck, according to a picture of the assignment obtained by the Post.
The types of men shown kneeling included a pirate slave trader, a Klan member and a police officer.
The captions under the photos said, “I can’t breathe.”
The assignment asked students to “describe the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement” and whether they agreed with those.
“My daughter showed me the paper. I said, ‘What is this?! You’ve got to be kidding me!’” Ania Paternostro, the mother of a student at Westlake, told the Post.
“This cartoon compares the police to the KKK. It’s an attack on the police.”
— New York Post Metro (@nypmetro) September 14, 2020
Paternostro said she sent letters addressing the assignment to Mount Pleasant School District Superintendent Kurt Kotes and Westlake Principal Keith Schenker.
“Enough is enough,” she told the Post.
“This cartoon is disturbing. We have to respect the men in blue who protect us,” Paternostro added.
“We don’t need a teacher brainwashing my kids. I’ll teach my kids about what’s right and what’s wrong.”
Paternostro’s daughter Nicole expressed concerns about the assignment, saying she thought it was one-sided and anti-police. She added that she had been bullied and called racist on social media since expressing her opinion on the assignment.
“The cartoon was disgusting,’’ Nicole said.
“It compared the police with all the terrible people in history. It was not fair. It wasn’t right.’’
Kotes sent a letter to the parents of students in Moreno’s class promising an “investigation” into the assignment.
“I want to address an issue that I have recently been advised is of deep concern to many members of our community,” he said.
“Specifically, I have been advised that one of our High School teachers may have recently conducted a lesson that many have deemed to be highly controversial in the current climate.”
Kotes added that he would update the community once the investigation concludes.
Steve Kardian, a retired Mount Pleasant police officer, called the assignment a “smack in the face to law enforcement,” the Post reported.
“It’s an absolutely a smear of the police,” he said.
Former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino agreed, telling the Post, “Parents don’t send their children to school to learn to hate America and our police.”
“Our schools should be a place for the open exchange of ideas, not political indoctrination,” he said. “The false narratives and brainwashing has to stop.”
The illustration also caused a stir last month in Texas when it was included in an assignment given to social studies students at Cooper Junior High in the Wylie Independent School District, north of Dallas.
? @JoeGamaldi blasted @WylieISD Superintendent for pushing disturbing material: “I cannot begin to tell you how abhorrent & disturbing this comparison is, but what is more disturbing is that no adult within your school thought better before sending this assignment to children.” pic.twitter.com/zEZC0yPVW8
— National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) (@GLFOP) August 20, 2020
“In hindsight, we say that they could have picked a more balanced approach,” Wylie Independent School District spokesman Ian Halperin said.
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