A homework assignment depicting racist themes in the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” sparked controversy Monday when the English classroom at Western Albemarle High School was used that evening as a changing room for the Fluvanna County High School girls' basketball team.
“So after our game we found a poster in the locker room we [were] in and it said ‘negros sit in the back of the bus,’” one player wrote on social media after the game. “That is very disrespectful and racist.”
The post angered others, including one parent who said that Western Albemarle should voluntarily forfeit the game it won, 45-34, to “voluntarily stand up to racism.”
Western Albemarle Principal Darah Bonham said the poster was part of a project on Harper Lee’s novel set in 1930s Alabama that asked students to analyze themes such as racial tension, injustice and poverty, and then draft written and visual depictions of them.
“[Western Albemarle] has been in contact with Fluvanna school officials to express our concern over an incident last evening when a poster with racially sensitive images was found in a classroom being used by the Fluvanna high school girls’ basketball team,” Bonham said Tuesday.
“At the end of the game, the Fluvanna players brought the poster to the attention of their coaches. Western Albemarle administrators immediately began an investigation that has continued throughout today,” he said.
“A student left the poster they are working on in the classroom, on a desk, at the end of the school day,” he said. “The poster has not yet been completed or reviewed by the teacher.”
Bonham said that, while school officials believe the poster’s presence was purely unplanned, the school will not tolerate violations of its “values of respect, community and excellence.”
“Any actions, at any time that are contrary to these values will not be tolerated. We appreciate the cooperation and support of stakeholders, including Fluvanna staff and administrators, in bringing this to our attention,” he said.
“Based on the information we shared with [Western Albemarle], I trust them to handle it accordingly,” said Chuck Winkler, superintendent of Fluvanna schools. “Our Lady Flucos were there to play a game and compete with honor and dignity, which we did. We expected and received the same from Western’s team, as always.”
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Do you need a quick and engaging wrap-up to a novel unit? Do you want to reinforce the themes presented in that novel you just finished? Ask your students to design a THEME POSTER.
The themes and example posters in this product are based upon The Outsiders, but you can use the directions and rubric for ANY NOVEL. Using a Google Slide, students will also practice some graphic design elements as they design an attractive poster based on their book.
This product includes an Instruction Sheet, Google Slide tips, two example posters, and an easy-to-score rubric. The PDF file also includes a link to the Google Slides version- perfect for Google Classroom use!
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