'They deserve the right to be children'; CPS police brutality curriculum raises parental concerns
A new city-mandated curriculum on police brutality in Chicago schools involving former Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his torture victims has no place in the classroom, some former educators and parents say.
Eighth-graders and high school sophomores will not be able to opt out of the 116-page lesson plan that is a direct response to a $5.5 million lawsuit by more than 100 of Burge's victims, according to DNA.info.
Angela Mcmillin, the mother of three Chicago Public School (CPS) students and a former member of the Local School Council at Edison Park Elementary, told the Chicago City Wire that if her kids can opt out of health education and certain tests, they should be able to opt out of a course on police brutality.
“I think that CPS’ role in education is to make my child high school or college ready,” McMillin said. “And I don’t think that this particular curriculum can further that endeavor or their objective in educating my child… . My job as a parent is to support the education of my children. Part of that is censoring what they have access to.”
McMillin argues that if she does not let her child watch Law & Order, then she does not want her daughter exposed to a case study that talks about “a man’s testicles being electrocuted or guns being jammed down men’s throats.”
An analysis of the police brutality curriculum provided on DNA.info says that students will have a two-day discussion about the torture victims in which they will talk about their encounters with police and learn why many neighborhoods in Chicago are still so segregated.
“The reason why it should not be taught at all is that it can be taught out of the box as is and will make a further racially divided community,” McMillin said, adding that her daughter should not have to be exposed to a lesson plan that involves on-site counselors to address any emotional and psychological concerns students might have afterward.
“It’s not just my kid," she said. "It’s all kids. They deserve the right to be children for as long as possible. Why do we need them to grow up too fast? Mind you I believe that the case study is disgusting. It’s disgusting that it happened. But my child will not be high school-ready by being exposed to that."
Not only are people concerned about the graphic material presented in the city mandated course material, but former educators are also worried that other topics will have to be sacrificed in order to introduce the torture lesson plan.
“As a former Chicago Public Schools high school U.S. history teacher, I know firsthand how difficult it is to teach the entirety of American history from exploration to present day in 38 weeks,” Amanda Biela wrote in an email. “Teachers must be thoughtful and selective to which events and movements have the greatest influence and impact on our nation as a whole. I don't believe a singular and local story even one that may be horrendous such as the Burge case belongs in a U.S. History survey course."
The former CPS teacher said that when you add something new in history for a lesson plan, something else has to be removed or shortened.
“If teachers are now required to add a lesson on Burge, then what will be removed from the curriculum?" Biela wrote. "Are teachers going to spend less time on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution or the Civil War? Or perhaps industrialization and women's suffrage will be sacrificed."