CROSSETT, Ark. (10/26/19) A homework assignment has turned into a heated debate after parents say their 8th grade children were sent home with poems they feel were inappropriate.
“Whenever he got to the last page of it and I saw the big F word on there it stood out to me. I went and re-read the whole poem and saw several profanities in it,” Rebekah Slack said.
Slack is the mother of two children who attend the Crosssett Middle School. Her children along with many other students were given an assignment to read Shane Koyczan’s, “To This Day”. First year English teacher, Cristin DuBose, assigned the work to her students.
Slack said her step-daughter along with her son had the same material that she said was given to them as a project from DuBose.
“I told both kids I would not allow it,” Slack said. “We do not allow our kids to speak that way. We do not allow our kids this read this material.”
The following day, Slack said she went to the school to speak with the principal.
“She said that she was aware of the word starting with an ‘s’ in there. She authorized it to be handed out,” Slack said. “She wasn’t aware of the other word that was on the back page because they never finished reading the poem.”
DuBose, the 8th grade teacher, did issue an apology to parents:
DuBose admitted to printing the unedited version and gave students the option to read Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise,” or Edgar Allen Poe’s, “The Raven.”
Slack and other parents we spoke with said their children read Angelou’s poem. Parents said this particular stanza included “sexual content” and they said they weren’t pleased.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
“That’s not fixing it for us because that’s still provocative,” Slack said. “That’s going against everything we are teaching our children right now.”
Other parents who disagree with the issue said Angelou’s poem is all about perception and there’s nothing sexual about it. Some do agree that all classroom material should be checked before handed out.
Slack and other parents said the poems are examples of the type of behavior they want their children to avoid.
“If my kids are going to be corrupted and my kids are going to be exposed to these kinds of things, I don’t feel like it should be in the public school system. That’s supposed to be our safe place.”
Slack said her son was recently received for telling another student out loud in class “screw that”.
“But the school can hand him all of these papers that have all of these profanities in it,” she said. “I feel like I’m owed an apology and three day worth of detention for my son back.”
Another parent said an apology isn’t enough. They want the teacher reprimanded and want to be assured their younger children won’t be taught the same lessons.
“I think teachers are to be held to the same standards,” one parent said. “I think teachers are to be held to the same standards. Some things are just not appropriate.”
Crossett School District Superintendent, Gary Williams, issued a statement:
“This past week, two poems were used in an eighth-grade poetry analysis unit. One of the poems contained two words that were inappropriate, and the second poem contained suggestive content in one of the stanzas. The inappropriate words and suggestive content were mistakenly left in the poems as a result of an editing error, and the assignment has since been eliminated. The teacher, principal, and Crossett School District regret the mistake and in no way condone the language mistakenly left in the assignment. We will work diligently to edit any inappropriate language or content moving forward. The district appreciates the concerns shared with us so we can improve and make our students’ educational experience the best it can be.“
Slack and other parents want to address the matter at the next school board meeting. Slack said she was told she would have to have 50 signatures before she could be heard at the meeting.
Williams couldn’t say on whether or not this was actual protocol.