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Lawrence Township schools responds after parents object to Black history assignment

A sign for Fall Creek Valley Middle School. (WISH Photo)

LAWRENCE, Ind. (WISH) — A Marion County middle school is responding to parents who are upset over a Black history assignment some believe went too far.

The Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township said Wednesday that it “demonstrated poor judgement” with a social studies assignment at Fall Creek Valley Middle School that asked students to draw pictures of Black people picking cotton in the 1800s.

According to the MSD, the assignment tasked students with a writing assignment aligned with the content standard.

However, the district stated, “The issue was not with the curriculum; rather, with the delivery and the inclusion of a prompt at the end to draw an image that depicted economic life in the south versus economic life in the north at the time, during the 1800s.”

The district added that the prompt was not a part of the instructional plan.

The parent of one of the Fall Creek students says they were made aware of the assignment last week. The parent says the instructor told students only to draw images of Black people picking cotton and white people working industrial jobs, something that made some of the students feel uncomfortable.

The parent says their child and some other students in the classroom refused to participate. After class, the child felt compelled to call the parent to explain what happened and voice their frustration over the assignment. The parent says the child was offended by being forced to draw enslaved Blacks to represent the south.

The MSD responded Monday, in part: “The social studies assignment in question does not reflect its commitment to students and demonstrates poor judgment, and the school and district officials are involved with the teacher and the family who came forward with concerns.”

On Wednesday, the concerned parent met with the school principal.

When asked for details about the meeting, the school district responded: “We cannot publicly share details of a closed-door meeting between a building principal and a family. [You can] rest assured that the principal is working to address the parents’ concerns.”

On Wednesday, the Greater Indianapolis Branch of the NAACP released a statement regarding the incident.

“The Greater Indianapolis Branch of the NAACP is aware of the case of cultural insensitivity that occurred within the Lawrence Township schools. We find the manner in which the instructor presented the subject matter as highly offensive. She failed to consider the numerous significant contributions the African American community made to the fabric of America, even under the most arduous conditions. We intend to engage in a discussion with the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township to address the matter and become a resource as they evolve into a more culturally sensitive educational environment for the benefit of the students and the Lawrence Township school community.”

News 8 has reached out for further comments and will continue to follow new developments.