Student art comparing police, KKK sparks social media furor

Student art comparing police, KKK sparks social media furor
Published: Feb. 24, 2016 at 7:49 PM EST|Updated: Apr. 9, 2016 at 6:49 PM EDT
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The drawing from last year was rehung among several other student pieces to spark a discussion...
The drawing from last year was rehung among several other student pieces to spark a discussion about 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' (Source: Oldham County Schools)

GOSHEN, KY (WAVE) - A piece of student art is attracting attention on social media and within a Kentucky school district because of its depiction of a police officer aiming a gun at the head of an African-American child.

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Oldham County Schools spokeswoman Tracy Green said the drawing was created by a North Oldham High School student during the 2014-15 school year. It was part of an art project that resulted from a discussion about civil unrest in an honors English class. At the time, police shootings of African-American men and teenage boys in cities such as Chicago and the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri were attracting national attention and heated debate.

Recently, Green said, the teacher of the class included the drawing from last year in a display of several student pieces on the subject of civil unrest to spark a discussion about the 1960 Harper Lee novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which dramatizes the issue of racial inequality.

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The drawing compares a white police officer holding a gun on a black child in 2015 to a black man staring down the barrel of a Ku Klux Klan member's gun in 1930. It also features the Confederate flag on the 1930 side of the drawing and the American flag on the 2015 side.

"My requests to the school to abstain from this obvious hostile learning environment were met with deaf ears," Dan Hamblin, a police officer whose daughter is a current student in the honors English class, said in a Facebook post dated Feb. 22.

"My daughter is not unlike other children of first responders," Hamblin went on to write. "She fears for my safety every day, and believes me to be a man of honesty and courage. She is proud to say I am her father and tells others what I do for a living. What this propaganda creates, are future cop haters, which endanger me, and 800,000 other courageous protectors. We speak of tolerance, we speak of changing hostile environments, we speak of prejudice, and we speak of racial relations, yet, when it comes to hostility toward police, their families, and profiling them through bigotry we are expected to tolerate it. I will not, nor will my child."

Hamblin requested that those who read his post share it with others, which thousands of people have done.

Green said the district has no plans to take down the drawing, and that it is up to the teacher, who the district did not identify, to remove it if it causes a disruption in the junior honors English class. Green said the teacher's intention was to open a discussion among her students about social injustice and to encourage them to talk about their various opinions in the hope of understanding each other.

Green said the teacher likely will remove the drawing when the To Kill a Mockingbird discussion is complete in about one week.

The school received about 100 complaints about the drawing on Wednesday with approximately 50 more going to the district office.

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