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Racial slur used in homework assignment rescinded, school district says

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    MANTECA, California (KCRA) — A racial slur, spelled out in full, on an eighth grade homework assignment has a Manteca mom alarmed, upset and calling on the school district to do more to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Melissa Cheek’s son showed her the April 12 assignment in which his social studies teacher at Shasta Elementary used a racial slur, spelled out in the body of the assignment, twice – immediately giving her cause for concern.

“It has been a word that has come up in school. One that we don’t use as a family. One that is … offensive,” said Cheek. “He knew that it wasn’t a word that was OK to use.”

The assignment further directed the eighth graders to visit the Ferris State University Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, which, according to the museum’s mission statement: “uses objects of intolerance to teach tolerance and promote social justice.”

Students were also told to read a webpage on the Jim Crow museum site that explores the extensive history of that racial slur and uses it dozens of times on the page.

It’s an assignment, Cheek said, parents didn’t get notified about ahead of time.

“Nothing was sent out, you know, ‘Be on the lookout, we’re discussing this. This might be uncomfortable,'” Cheek explained. “That could have been a better approach.”

She doesn’t think the homework was geared toward middle-schoolers like her son.

“I feel like there were many ways you could have approached it other than how he did,” said Cheek. “It was very inappropriate.”

The Manteca Unified School District said the social studies teacher who assigned the homework was trying to spark critical-thinking and conversation among his students.

After Cheek raised concerns with the school’s principal and the district, the superintendent reached out to the parents to let them know they’d investigate the matter fully and that when a resolution was reached they’d communicate that with the parents as well.

A written statement from Manteca Unified School District to KCRA 3 about the matter reads:

“In April, we were made aware of an eighth-grade social science assignment that derived some concern. School and District administration responded immediately to the concerns by enacting an investigation and speaking to the student, parent, and teacher affiliated with said concern. After a fair and thorough investigation, administration and teacher agreed that the assignment presented to students neither aligned to state grade-level standards nor was age appropriate and thus, the assigned was rescinded and grades were not impacted.

“Standards aligned grade level appropriate assignments allow teachers to guide students through critical thinking discourse creating an opportunity for conversation in an inclusive learning environment such as this one. Supporting age-appropriate assignments is critical for meaningful discussion.”

Cheek is relieved the assignment was taken down, but said she believes the teacher who assigned it should face some disciplinary action.

“You should be held accountable for that,” she said. “The fact that nothing’s been done, he’s continued to teach as normal, every day on campus, putting out material … I just feel like it’s been shoved under the rug, and I’m not OK with that.”

After the district pulled down the assignment, Cheek said the school’s principal contacted her and said her son would be placed in a different classroom to complete his social studies work for the remainder of the school year.

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