LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A book about a police shooting being taught at a JCPS school has ignited a backlash from a number of parents who say the book is inappropriate and hateful.
The book is called “Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice.” It’s written for children between the ages of 4 and 8, according to the publisher. It tells the story through the eyes of two children after an officer-involved shooting, and in the story, the children question their parents about why the shooting happened.
The book was used at a number of JCPS schools this week, including Brandeis Elementary, according to one parent. JCPS said it was also taught at Sanders Elementary and that they are working on gathering a more complete list. They said it was used as a resource and not a part of the required curriculum.
In one exchange in the book, the child’s father, Malcolm, tells him, “I could get stopped by the police just because I’m Black, even if I don’t do anything wrong.”
“That’s not fair!” Josh, his child, replies. “What if it was a white man in the car? Would the police have shot him?”
“They probably wouldn’t have even stopped the car,” Malcolm replies.
“Sometimes white people are treated better than Black people,” Josh’s mother later adds.
One parent, who is a former teacher and wished not to be identified for fear of retaliation against his child, told us the book presents an ideology and opinions that do not belong in the classroom. He believes it is not the place of JCPS teachers to try to “indoctrinate” children. He was one of several parents who reached out to WAVE 3 News.
“What would happen if the school were to teach something that you disagree with? That you vehemently oppose?” the parent questioned. “How would you feel if your children were being forced fed these ideological constructs. Would that be ok with you?”
In another portion of the book, Josh asks if officers ever go to jail.
“Cops stick up for each other,” his brother states. “And they don’t like Black men."
One of the characters explains the shooting was a mistake.
The child’s sister says, “It wasn’t a mistake. The cops shot him because he was Black.”
The JCPS parent told us he believes the book implies children should feel ashamed of being white.
“We have attempted to, throughout the last decade or so, to try to create a sense of self-esteem in children,” he said. “To show children how beautiful they are no matter what persuasion they’re from, no matter what body type and this is actually moving back. This is contrary to the Martin Luther King idea that you should judge on the content of the character, not the color of the skin.”
“As a minority, as a Latino, I can tell you right now that that is exactly the indoctrination program that we see in Cuba, Venezuela,” he said. “I recognize it from a mile away.”
The book was published in 2018 and was written by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard. It is a National Parenting Product Award winner.
“Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Social Injustice" has caused controversy at school districts in other states, but Collins said the book is not meant to perpetuate anti-police stereotypes. She pointed out that one of the parents in the book states that there are many cops, Black and white, who make good choices. That statement is followed by the father saying, “But we can’t always count on them to do the right thing.”
“We aren’t trying to vilify the police or even undermine children’s' confidence in them,” Collins said.
She maintains the book is appropriate for the school setting as long as the teacher follows the guidelines in the back of the book to explain the context of the material to the children.
“If they hear something like that in isolation by itself, and left on their own trying to figure that out,” Collins said, “they will come to a conclusion that is not the purpose of our book.”
The father believes JCPS should focus on teaching children academics instead of what he considers a book based on opinions.
“Why are you teaching emotionally based, non-factual arguments to our children?” he said.
JCPS provided the following statement:
“The focus of the book is about inclusivity and treating people fair and is endorsed by several organizations including the American Psychological Association. The book was provided to school counselors as a tool to use with upper elementary school students and the characters in the book give different perspectives. After the book was read, a lesson followed that further discussed the topics addressed and the feelings expressed by the characters.”