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Book on police shooting of Black man sparks controversy at Papillion La Vista schools
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Book on police shooting of Black man sparks controversy at Papillion La Vista schools

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From there to here, and here to there, Dr. Seuss books are an international affair. But some of his stories have caused a scareWith portrayals of people that are unfair. Like an Asian person with chopsticks in handOr African American men, barefoot as they stand.Dr. Seuss Enterprises says its hurtful and wrongAnd a message it no longer wants to prolong. The publishing of six books will be curtailed. Dr. Seuss Enterprises is ceasing their sale. A panel of experts decided which books to stop --Their prices now skyrocketing in online shops. Some view the move as cancel culture, Like conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. But some educators say books can be a sculptor,Molding young minds on who is a real-life villain or hero."How do we change?" some ask, when we have Read Across America Day,Which aims to inspire kids to go ahead, read away. But its tied to, and is on, Dr. Seuss birthday.   Well, some U.S. school districts are separating the movement from the authors birthday. Prompting one Virginia school district to clear up some hear-say. It said: Dr. Seuss books have not been banned."We just want to celebrate all books not one mans." Even President Biden seems to be down with that plan. He didnt mention Dr. Seuss in this years virtual program.Even though other presidents had. In the meantime, Dr. Seuss enterprises says itll review its portfolioTo represent all children and families we know. Lauren Magarino, Newsy, Chicago.

A book shared with students at two Papillion La Vista schools has prompted strong reactions from parents and educators.

The book, “Something Happened in Our Town,” depicts a white family and a Black family as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community.

Something Happened in Our Town

Papillion La Vista Superintendent Andrew Rikli said Monday that he has received “countless” emails and phone calls from people with varying viewpoints on the book.

Rikli addressed the controversy during a Papillion La Vista Community Schools Board meeting Monday.

The book and a video version of the book, which were shared with students at two schools in late March, were mistakenly placed on a teacher resource list without prior review, Rikli said.

“One, it was pushed out to our schools to be used from a resource list but was never truly vetted through our curriculum process,” Rikli said. “Second, the video was pulled because the police are portrayed in an extremely negative way. The comments about police in this video aren’t representative of the way our district views our local police officers.”

Rikli said he has met with leaders from both law enforcement and the teacher’s association to explain the situation and apologize to both groups.

“We are not a school district that believes it’s our role to share negative perceptions with our students about law enforcement,” he said. “We believe we can have difficult conversations about delicate topics such as racism without making negative blanket statements about others.”

At the Monday board meeting, Elizabeth von Nagy, a Papillion-La Vista High School librarian, spoke in defense of “Something Happened in Our Town.”

“This book is a New York Times best-seller recommended for children ages 4 to 8,” Nagy said. “The authors are women with Ph.D.s who are well-respected psychologists. It was well reviewed, receiving awards and accolades.”

Nagy asked that the board speak to the district’s Black students.

“I urge you to ask them if the district’s response was palpable and supportive, especially given the district’s focus on equity and diversity this school year,” Nagy said.

Tim Hall, who spoke to the board as a concerned citizen, took issue with multiple passages of the book, including when a character says, “The cops shot him because he was Black,” and when a parent in the book says that there are many cops, Black and white, who make good choices, followed by another character saying, “But we can’t always count on them to do the right thing.”

“These passages, beyond being inappropriate for school-aged children, are biased to the police and … exhibit racist ideas,” Hall said.

Also at the board meeting, Jared Wagenknecht, vice president of the Papillion La Vista Education Association, spoke in support of educators who shared the book with their students.

“The Papillion La Vista Education Association stands in strong support of educators who engage their students in courageous conversations about racism and social injustice,” Wagenknecht said. “The problem is not the material in question. The problem is continuing to ignore the very real issues of racism and injustice.”

The worst consequences of the district’s response are the missed opportunities for discussion and questions, Wagenknecht said.

“Our students deserve to be engaged,” he said. “It is our job to help students process and make sense of the world that they have inherited.”


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