On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

clear-day
85°
Chance of T-storms
H 91° L 71°
  • clear-day
    85°
    Current Conditions
    Chance of T-storms. H 91° L 71°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day
    91°
    Today
    Chance of T-storms. H 91° L 71°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day
    91°
    Tomorrow
    Chance of T-storms. H 91° L 71°
Listen
Pause
Error

News on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Education
Is sprucing up a Confederate cemetery an appropriate school project? 
Close

Is sprucing up a Confederate cemetery an appropriate school project? 

Is sprucing up a Confederate cemetery an appropriate school project? 
Photo Credit: Special to the AJC
In response to a planned field trip to a Confederate cemetery, a Fayette County father told the principal: “The true history of slavery is one of violence and oppression. It is a history that needs to be taught with appropriate weight. Something has gone terribly wrong when children are asked to clean the graves of those who enslaved, killed and oppressed their ancestors.”

Is sprucing up a Confederate cemetery an appropriate school project? 

When a Fayette County father glanced at a field trip permission slip from his daughter's charter school last week, he was stunned. The destination printed atop the form said "Confederate Soldier Cemetery," and the mission, according to his seventh grader, was to clean it. The form stated students would be visiting the cemetery once a week over four weeks.

Close

Is tending a Confederate cemetery an appropriate school project

The father, who is African-American, reached out to the sponsoring teacher at Liberty Tech Charter in the town of Brooks to voice concerns, saying the activity was inappropriate for a black child or any child in a public school class. The teacher explained the community service project was suggested by a parent, and she told the dad she hoped the cemetery could be disassociated from the Confederate graves in it. Students, she said, would weed and help combat erosion at the cemetery. She said they would not be touching the graves, according to the dad. 

The father asked me to withhold his name for concerns about fallout to his daughter.  

While he had seen the cemetery in the heart of Brooks, the father visited it again Friday and concluded disassociating the site from the Confederacy would be impossible. Along with a large sign proclaiming, "This cemetery is maintained by Sons of Confederate Veterans," Confederate flags adorn some of the graves. (Not all the graves are former Confederate soldiers.)

Special to the AJC
Is a cemetery with strong Confederate ties an appropriate field trip project for a public school? 
Close

Is tending a Confederate cemetery an appropriate school project

Photo Credit: Special to the AJC
Is a cemetery with strong Confederate ties an appropriate field trip project for a public school? 

In an email, the father explained to Liberty Tech principal Melissa King why the project was ill-conceived:

Given the history of the confederates — who fought a war mainly to protect a society of which slavery was an integral part — I do not believe this a suitable assignment for a child; especially an African-American child whose ancestors gave their lives to gain freedom.

The true history of slavery is one of violence and oppression. It is a history that needs to be taught with appropriate weight. Something has gone terribly wrong when children are asked to clean the graves of those who enslaved, killed and oppressed their ancestors.

This may be an excellent opportunity to implement some training and awareness on issues encountered by diverse students. Understanding cultural differences and weighing the long-term impact of assignments that deal with history and race could spare many students from unintentional alienation and humiliation.

I understand that the original idea of this project was to support the community and the thought is that the confederate history could be dissociated from the cemetery and community service. I visited the graveyard and it there isn’t no way to dissociate the graveyard from its historical context. There are confederate flags that are very present as well as a very large sign for the Sons of the confederacy.

I am not confident that for this field trip there has been an assessment, consideration and safeguards put into place to protect diverse students from the emotional pain of past events...It would be great if the criteria for field trips can be reassessed to also included the considering the emotional well-being being of children — from the perspective of those who could be negatively impacted.

I also reached out to principal King with several questions about the field trip.

Did Liberty Tech Charter ask students to clean a Confederate cemetery?

No, students will not be cleaning any cemeteries, Confederate or non-Confederate. The goal of this opportunity is to allow students to visit multiple cemeteries in close proximity to the school to understand their importance to the community. A specific focus will be on who in a community is responsible for preserves and maintains these public areas. Students will be learning this information by observations, interviewing professionals, and researching not by cleaning.

Is this project a service project or an academic one?

This is not a service project and is academic in nature to give our students an opportunity to better understand who is responsible for preserving and maintaining graveyards. The particular graveyard in question has had a major erosion problem. Several Eagle Scout projects have been conducted at this graveyard. The students thought it would be a location that would help them in their research to better understand how communities preserve these public areas. Other graveyards in local proximity to the school have been discussed and will be visited.

Who suggested it?

We asked our entire school community to help us generate ideas on what are some real world problems that our students could work on. Our middle school-students had a variety of projects from which to choose, one of which is to answer the question, “How do communities preserve graveyards and promote awareness regarding these public areas?” This particular idea was suggested by a parent but each student individually selected which academic project they would work on.

What did the teacher mean when she said she hoped the Confederate elements of the cemetery could be "disassociated" from the project?

The cemeteries were selected based on proximity to the school, and cemeteries were not selected because they are Confederate. Liberty Teach Charter Schools celebrates and values the diversity of its student body. The school would never require its students or staff to take part in an activity or experience that would undermine its commitment to fostering the strength of diversity.

Liberty Tech decided to shift the cemetery visits from Wednesday mornings to Saturday mornings, which the principal told me was due to transportation concerns. (The children were going to walk the .03 miles to the cemetery.) 

"Due to being a one-school district and a state charter school, we do not own buses or have extensive funding for the renting of transportation. Our No. 1 concern is always the safety of our students, hence the change in the project plan. Furthermore, the breadth of the project required more time than one hour per week allotment in order to properly make observations while utilizing project based learning," said King.

What are your thoughts about this project? I spent a few hours today reading about how schools still grapple with teaching students about the Civil War and slavery, especially in the South.

I found this Atlantic article compelling. 

The writer notes:

The question of what students should learn about the Civil War, the role that slavery played in it, and the history of Reconstruction—the period from 1865 to 1876 when African Americans claimed their rights to freedom and voting, followed by a violent backlash by white Southerners—causes contentious disputes among educators, historians, and the American public. One outcome of these disputes is that ideologies often masquerade as historic facts. Texas’s 2010 standards, for instance, listed states’ rights and tariffs, alongside slavery, as the main causes of the Civil War—even though historians overwhelmingly agree that slavery was the central issue.

Another common problem is omissions: A 2017 survey of 10 commonly used textbooks and 15 sets of state standards found that textbooks treated slavery in superficial ways, and state standards focused more on the “feel-good” stories of abolitionists than on the brutal realities of slavery. When the same study surveyed 1,000 high-school seniors across the country, it found that among 12th graders, only 8 percent could identify slavery as the cause of the Civil War, and fewer than four in 10 students surveyed understood how slavery “shaped the fundamental beliefs of Americans about race and whiteness.”

Projects and field trips of this nature can go wrong, as occurred with a Catholic school in Louisiana  and a private school in New York. 

In 2016, I wrote about the playing of an Underground Railroad game by a Cobb fifth grade class and the objections of a grandmother who felt rolling the dice to travel the railroad trivialized the horrors of slavery. 

At the time, I talked to experts who cautioned that projects around race and ethnic identity must be thought out carefully so students are not hurt or marginalized. 

Your views?

Read More

News

  • A 19-year-old McDonald’s employee in California has filed a complaint alleging assault and negligence of management after an alleged attack by a customer who refused to wear a mask. Maria Resendiz, who works at a McDonald’s in Oakland, filed a complaint Monday with the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration, SFGate reported. Resendiz said she was attacked June 27 in the drive-thru by a customer after she refused him service for not wearing a mask, the website reported. Resendiz also alleged several instances of worker abuse by customers and a lack of concern by management for worker safety, according to her complaint. According to the complaint, Resendiz said she asked the customer to wear a mask, which is required by the restaurant and Alameda County officials. The customer allegedly swore and uttered an ethnic slur, KPIX reported. The man then allegedly moved his car away from the drive-thru, approached Resendiz at the window on foot and continued to yell at her while banging on the window, SFGate reported. According to her complaint, Resendiz alleged that when she took her hand off the window to call the police, the man opened it and demanded that someone give him the employee’s full name. According to Resendiz, her manager wrote her name on a piece of paper and was about to hand it to the customer “so he would leave,” when the employee intervened, “What if he kills me?” Resendiz said, according to the complaint, adding that the manager “was silent.” Resendiz then said the customer grabbed and slapped her, KPIX reported. Michael Smith, the owner of the franchise, told Business Insider that safety was a priority and that he was working with Oakland police to investigate the case. “On Saturday, we learned of an altercation at our San Pablo Avenue restaurant,” Smith said in a statement. “The supervisor on duty called local law enforcement immediately to report the incident. Officers were welcomed into the restaurant to review security footage and are still investigating this matter.” Resendiz was taken to a hospital and was treated for a hand injury and scratches on her neck, KPIX reported. “I just want to tell customers not to disrespect us,” Resendiz told Business Insider. “We’re humans as well.”
  • A New Jersey man died early Saturday in a fireworks explosion in Jersey City, authorities said. According to witnesses, the victim, who has not been identified, was struck in the neck with fireworks shortly before 1 a.m., NJ.com reported. The explosion took place outside the Booker T. Washington housing complex, the website reported. Attempts to revive the man were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead at an area hospital. In 2017, New Jersey lawmakers legalized the use of certain fireworks, including poppers, sparklers and other non-aerial items, The Associated Press reported. According to NJ.com, a city task force was created after social media videos showed men conducting shootouts involving Roman candles, which are illegal in New Jersey.
  • A motorcyclist was thrown from their bike and killed Saturday morning after rear-ending an SUV on I-20 in Atlanta, police said. The crash occurred about 1:30 a.m. in the eastbound lanes near Hamilton E. Holmes Drive. Speed appears to have played a role in the deadly wreck, investigators said. “The preliminary investigation indicates an SUV was entering onto I-20 and observed a motorcycle approaching from behind at a high rate of speed,” Atlanta police said in a statement. “The motorist stated they attempted to avoid the motorcycle. However, the motorcycle struck the rear of the SUV, causing the motorcyclist to be ejected.” Read more on this story on ajc.com.
  • An Arizona woman fell to her death Friday at Grand Canyon National Park as she attempted to take photographs, park officials said. Maria A. Salgado Lopez, 59, of Scottsdale, was hiking off-trail when she fell off the edge of Mather Point, park officials said in a news release. Rangers received a call about 12:35 p.m. When they arrived, rangers found Lopez about 100 feet below the rim, KNXV reported. An investigation is being conducted by the National Park Service and the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office, KTVK reported. No additional information was available. In its release, park officials reminded visitors to follow safety guidelines. “Grand Canyon National Park staff encourage all visitors to have a safe visit this holiday weekend by staying on designated trails and walkways, always keeping a safe distance from the edge of the rim, and staying behind railings and fences at overlooks,” the park said in its release.
  • People aren’t the only ones feeling cooped up during the coronavirus pandemic. A wayward pet chicken hitched a ride with a Texas woman and her son to a Jiffy Lube on Wednesday, surprising everyone -- including the technicians performing an oil change. Tiffany Travis, of Pearland, was returning a dog and its crate to her neighbor, Laurie Fowler, KSAT reported. As Travis left, Fowler’s pet chicken, Maggie, jumped into the back of Travis’ truck, the television station reported. “Jury is still out if she flew into (the) bed or wheel well. Forensic Ring evidence is hazy,” Travis told KSAT. Travis and her son left and drove three miles to a Jiffy Lube for an oil change. When she started to pay for the service, she noticed a commotion. “My kids and I were in my husband’s truck, masked up COVID-style,” Travis told the television station. “When we were leaving the bay, because I was still in driver seat the entire time, we handed the staff my credit card through a cracked window and heard a commotion.” That’s when Travis saw a Jiffy Lube employee chasing after Maggie, finally catching the bird as it ran around one of the service bays. “Ma’am, is this your chicken? It just fell out of your truck,” the employee asked. “At first I was very confused,” Travis told KSAT. “Then it dawned on me. ‘Yes, yes that is my chicken.‘” “The JiffyLube staff [was] already cracking up. They all got out their phones and took pictures.” Oil’s well that ends well, even for the chicken. Maggie was unhurt, except perhaps for some ruffled feathers. “The entire experience was like a scripted sitcom and brought much-needed humor to what has been a rough few months for our family and well, humanity,” Travis told KSAT. “We all could use some laughter right about now. Thank God for funny chickens.”
  • Two boys magnet fishing reeled in an explosive find, a rusted old hand grenade. Lari Tammiviuori and Viljami Juutilainen made the discovery while fishing Thursday in Lake Vesijarvi in Lahti, Finland, YLE reported. 'We carried it to the shore with our hands, but then didn't touch it again when we found out what it was,' Tammivuori said.  The boys have gone magnet fishing frequently this summer, pulling in scrap metal, bottle caps and nails. They called police who arrived and disposed of the grenade.  The age and condition of the explosive have not been released.  Mother Maarit Juutilainen thought her son's magnet fishing hobby was harmless. “Now you kind of get scared of what they might find,” she said. “But we won’t allow the boys to continue fishing scrap from there.”