Show of hands: How many teachers have allowed students to dress as the Klan? Do robes meet dress code?

Maybe it’s time for a show of hands among teachers: Who has allowed students to dress as Klan members, Nazis (Sandra Bullock’s lunkhead husband excluded) or Salem witch burners?

Second question: Who cares?

With the fresh news that a Gwinnett teacher also allowed her students to dress in Klan costumes,  it may be time for an audit of how often historical reenactments are used in schools and whether there should be guidelines to student attire.

I suspect we are likely to hear of more students wearing Klan costumes for re-enactments in Georgia schools. I also fear that we will never see another class re-enactment of anything but “Goldilocks” after all this hoopla.

I still maintain that the costumes are appropriate if the lesson requires dramatizations of real-life events and if the point is to show the true nature of these hateful acts.

I still don’t get the outcry and the rushed conclusion that these teachers – one of whom is black — did something terribly wrong and that summits must be held and careers threatened.

According to the AJC story:

A spokeswoman for Gwinnett County schools told the AJC that Stephanie Hunte, an 8th-grade social studies teacher at Sweetwater Middle School in Lawrenceville, allowed her students to wear KKK robes as part of a re-enactment last Thursday. Another teacher saw the students preparing for the re-enactment and told an administrator.

“The administrator told [Hunte] that this type of activity was not appropriate and would not take place,” spokeswoman Sloan Roach wrote in an e-mail.

However, school officials learned this week that Hunte had allowed “this same activity” in another class the day before, according to Roach.

“As a result of this information, we have launched a Human Resources investigation into the matter,” Roach told the AJC. “Ms. Hunte, who has been with GCPS since August 2006, was told to report to the Central Office this morning.”

Today is the last day of school. No disciplinary action has been taken.

Roach wrote that the re-enactment occurred as part of a social studies curriculum that covers “parts of our nation’s history, including Reconstruction, key political and social changes and the civil rights movement.”

The Gwinnett and Lumpkin cases are notable for their similarities, but also for one key difference: Hunte is black; the teacher in the Lumpkin County incident, Catherine Ariemma, is white.

117 comments Add your comment

V for Vendetta

May 26th, 2010
12:10 pm

I have filmed reenactment of To Kill a Mockingbird. The students used the N-word. Tom Robinson was shot.

What a horrible person I must be. I should be fired, and, for good measure, Harper Lee should be set on fire.

You Asked

May 26th, 2010
12:11 pm

How about a show of hands by preachers and activitsts who have gone on TV news to “react” to a situation about which they don’t even know the details?

I find the issue mongering much more offensive than a teacher’s failure to keep the reinactment in the classroom and out of the cafeteria.

You Asked

May 26th, 2010
12:12 pm

V-

Just don’t get caught putting on a production of The Sound of Music, or West Side Story.

Vince

May 26th, 2010
12:16 pm

Oops! When I was in the classroom I had students dress as Vikings for a reenactment. It was not my intent to offend people of European descent whose ancestors may have been victimized by the Norsemen.

I hope that my name will not be dragged out in a public forum for all to hear of my heinous deed.

Proud Black Man

May 26th, 2010
12:16 pm

Ms. M listed a good link on why this type of pedagogy should be avoided. Interesting though to note the number of closet tea (insert the name that cannot be mentioned} that came out in support of this “exemplary” teacher. As for the black teacher? Throw her under the bus too.

http://www.adl.org/education/Simulationinteachinghol.pdf

You Asked

May 26th, 2010
12:19 pm

@ PBM – We’re these classroom reinactments simulation activities (as per the ADL notice)?

I was under the impression they were reinactments. A much different type of instruction from simulations. The simulations put students in the role of holocaust victim. In the case of the KKK reinactment I do not think this was the case (putting students into the role of victim).

RJ

May 26th, 2010
12:19 pm

The only question I have is who read the lesson plans and failed to speak to the teachers prior to the classes?

Vince

May 26th, 2010
12:22 pm

Oops! I once had a few students dress as Vikings for a role play situation. It was not my intent to offend anyone of European descent whose ancestors may have been victimized by the Norsemen.

I certainly hope my name is not dragged through a public forum for such a heinous misdeed.

You Asked

May 26th, 2010
12:22 pm

RJ – lesson plans prepared prior to instruction. What a novel idea!

HS Teacher, Too

May 26th, 2010
12:28 pm

PBM, you are trying to extend the ADL’s perspective on HOLOCAUST classroom issues to any and all classroom re-enactments. You should know better. Though I disagree with you, I think your argument would be stronger if it were — I don’t know — accurate. Then, perhaps, we could have an intelligent discussion on pedagogy, what went wrong, and how to correct it.

I agree with V and You Asked. “Issue Mongering” is such an apt description.

LSH

May 26th, 2010
12:28 pm

Maureen:

maybe now you have a tiny idea of how politically charged schools are and how one little miss- step no matter how small or well intentioned can land a teacher into such a position. Even if this teacher does not lose her job, she will be watched and checked on every minute of every day. Who would want to work in that enviornment? Will this popular, creative and award winning teacher have to submit detailed lesson plans to an administrator for approval every week? Any parent can get their panties in a wad and if you even look at someone the wrong way, your job can and will be threatened. I have never been so glad to be out of this. Run teachers- RUN!

Barney Fife

May 26th, 2010
12:29 pm

Maybe the schools should do an reinactment of the black slave traders who sold the africans into slavery in the new world. Oh, by the way, there is still a slave trade in Africa today.
As for the school teacher, I think whatever happens to the Lumpkin Co. teacher should be appropriate for the Gwinnett Teacher too.

SallyB

May 26th, 2010
12:29 pm

I’m with RJ…
Teachers are required to turn in lesson plans a week ahead,,,,[at least everywhere I have taught that was the case ] If the lesson plan was not read/scrutinized/perused by someone in the administration, and/or their designee, we now know where the buck SHOULD stop.

Courtney

May 26th, 2010
12:33 pm

idiots….idiots all. People are complaining about racism being taught in schools? NAACP needs to do the honorable thing and disolve. Then those complaining can go get real jobs.

Hmmmmmmm

May 26th, 2010
12:34 pm

I suspect that you will not get the same media frenzy in the gwinnett county issue. Thank GOD the teacher is black, otherwise we would have two good teachers concerned about their JOBS…. This is SO ridiculous!

I still maintain that the costumes are appropriate if the lesson requires dramatizations of real-life events and if the point is to show the true nature of these hateful acts.

That statement is CLASSIC! Maureen, it sounds like you need to run for office. Spoken like a true politician….

Hmmmmmmm

May 26th, 2010
12:35 pm

BTW, Maureen, I would bet that you voted for Obama………. Just Curious… :)

K Teacher

May 26th, 2010
12:36 pm

The reaction to theses teachers shows how stupid administration, parents, news media, and community activists really are.

How sad for education when valid means of pedagogy are so dissed by so few. Yet, they usually win and the kids lose once again.

Hmmmmmmm

May 26th, 2010
12:39 pm

Proud Black man, Sounds like you have tempered your anger….. Could it be because this teacher is black….. Surely what is good for one is good for another…..

Political Spectator

May 26th, 2010
12:40 pm

It is idiotic to defend any teacher (Black or White) for reenacting Klan behavior. What is next- having children dress as Hitler? What about having students reenact killing Indians? Better yet, allow children to dress as massas and other kids to dress as slaves.

This teacher is as foolish as the teacher that made OJ a person to admire as part of the Black History celebration.

The teaching profession will never be revered as long as we are defending fools!!!!!

catlady

May 26th, 2010
12:41 pm

So, are we to expect, from here on out, warning announcements that:

“All animal lovers, we will be conducting dissections in the science lab. Students are also advised that frogs will be dissected in the other lab.”

“Vegetarians, beware, as the grounds crew is cutting the grass. The lunchroom is also serving beef tacos today.”

“Those of you who are sensitive to violence, the football team will be practicing at 3.”

“Feminists, the cheerleaders and dance squads will also be practicing at that time.”

And on, and on!

BTW, the robes are against the dress code if you are male. Girls are allowed to wear dresses. However, the head covering is banned for everyone, even if you are having a bad hair day.

Perplexed

May 26th, 2010
12:41 pm

I’ll post this for a third time:

If Ms. Ariemma is such a great educator, why didn’t she educate her students that the Ku Klux Klan are domestic terrorists? How or rather WHY did she think students dressed in white robes and hoods was a teaching tool/moment? Anyone this side of the Mississippi knows that the Ku Klux Klan should not be emulated. I wonder if she thinks Andrew Jackson was a racist, considering what happened to Native Americans. I mean really, where does it end? Her mantra is ‘racism exists and if we don’t talk about it, it’s like we condone it.” Talking is one thing…dressing as a Klansman, entirely another.

catlady

May 26th, 2010
12:43 pm

Maybe we SHOULD be just a babysitting service.

V for Vendetta

May 26th, 2010
12:43 pm

Next year I’m doing a reenactment of Revelations. At least I could get a job in Texas . . . .

Vince

May 26th, 2010
12:48 pm

@perplexed and political spectator

These students were making a film. Tell me, was it wrong for the director in “O’ Brother Where Art Thou” to include scenes of actors in klan robes? Is it wrong for actors to portray Hitler, Malcolm X or any other hate mongerer in a film…and to dress the part?

Katie

May 26th, 2010
12:48 pm

V for Vendetta,

Your ignorance is showing. There is no such book as Revelations. It’s REVELATION, please.

Hmmmmmmm

May 26th, 2010
12:50 pm

Political spectator

The only thing IDIOTIC, is to believe that these teachers did anything wrong! You can spin this however you wish. Teaching our kids history, accurate history, will only help to put a bright light on OUR problems, and help educate to the real hatred that was, and IS the KKK…

and then there was Perplexed, good grief, how do some people walk and chew gum at the same time!

Yelp

May 26th, 2010
12:52 pm

How would you all feel about a re-enactment of 9/11? Or how about the Oklahoma bombing? Better yet, let’s have our kids re-enact the murders of our troops over in Iraq and Afghanistan since we’re all about teaching lessons and what not. I mean after all, it was a part of history and it DID happen, right?

Does ANYONE have any tact these days??

I cannot believe that people are condoning any of this!

“Second question: Who cares?”

The children of the families who were affected by it, that’s who! How insensitive!

RCS 7/30

May 26th, 2010
12:52 pm

I’m sure these kids suffered so much having to perform this activity. You know, the same kids who after school is out will probably play video games such as Call of Duty where they will go around in the middle-east blowing up everything and everyone in site for 4 hours straight. But hey, why would we want them to learn US History and how we got to where we are now? Dumb, dumb, dumb…Please don’t tell me we are going to lose more great teachers. I mean, its one thing b/c of down sizing, but another bc they were actually teaching!

Yelp

May 26th, 2010
12:55 pm

“I have filmed reenactment of To Kill a Mockingbird. The students used the N-word. Tom Robinson was shot.

What a horrible person I must be. I should be fired, and, for good measure, Harper Lee should be set on fire.”

V, was the movie itself not good enough or something? Are we insinuating that our kids are too stupid to grasp what the books and movies are telling them by providing re-enactments?? Have mercy!

Yelp

May 26th, 2010
12:58 pm

Someone help, I taught for seven years and always found innovative ways to integrate history into the curriculum without having to resort to controvesial re-enactments that might be offensive to some of my students. There was always enough literature, film, etc to do that alone. I’m not understanding how this is okay.

Maureen Downey

May 26th, 2010
12:59 pm

@Yelp, What families, plural? My understanding is that one complaint triggered the Lumpkin County probe. In Gwinnett, it was a teacher who told the administration that the costumes were used by a colleague.
There is no evidence that there was a lot of upset students. That shouldn’t be the criteria for whether an action is right or wrong, but it does point to the fact that there are not a lot of folks complaining about this in the actual settings.
Maureen

Yelp

May 26th, 2010
1:01 pm

“The only question I have is who read the lesson plans and failed to speak to the teachers prior to the classes?”

In the case of the Gwinnett teacher this lesson was not approved but she did it anyway, even after being told by an administrator that it was inappropriate and not to do it. That insubordination, why does she still have a job? Furthermore, considering the demographics of Sweetwater Middle I don’t know how she could have thought this was smart???

Angela

May 26th, 2010
1:02 pm

Good After Noon All,

I am a very liberal teacher and mother. I believe that any question asked deserve an honest answer. I am not at all sure how the teacher’s inner thoughts and lesson was meant however, the truth about the KKK, Black Panthers, Skin Heads, etc, are facts and in many places still exist. Many still tend to deny that African Kings sold their people into slavery before they begin just being taken. (And, the question would/should still be were African’s ever just really taken)? Even today child slavery is still going on not only in Africa but also in Haiti. These are all facts and should not be swept under the rug.

Do I agree with how the teacher implemented the lesson, not exactly. But, as a high school teacher she had more leverage than I would have in elementary school. I might would/should ask her the question “How in-depth did you explain the lesson, and what was the reason for the students to walk among other students with the robes, and exactly what was to be learned morally, and was it morally comprehended?”

mike

May 26th, 2010
1:02 pm

Why not have a good ole Sunday lynching if you really want to see and know history. Most of you bloggers know that it was a family affair with kids and picnic baskets in the local park or town square. We can next have a production of how the Columbus and those other illegal immigrants came to this country and tried to exterminate the Native Americans. You know white folks seem not to remember that part. Or maybe next year a teacher can have the students dress as Native Americans and do The Trail of Tears. Now that is real Georgia history sanctioned by a president.

Yelp

May 26th, 2010
1:05 pm

“Even if this teacher does not lose her job, she will be watched and checked on every minute of every day.”

Which teacher? The white one or the black one? Seems the folks in Dahlonega don’t mind what happened, including the superintendent.

Yelp

May 26th, 2010
1:07 pm

“Many still tend to deny that African Kings sold their people into slavery before they begin just being taken. (And, the question would/should still be were African’s ever just really taken)? Even today child slavery is still going on not only in Africa but also in Haiti. These are all facts and should not be swept under the rug. ”

What is your point? The only time I hear this come up is to justify the Trans-Atlantic slave trade to the Americas. Slavery dates back to before Christ. SO WHAT IS YOUR POINT?

Proud Black Man

May 26th, 2010
1:08 pm

Both of these teachers acted stupidly. Should they lose their jobs over it? No.

H

May 26th, 2010
1:11 pm

“Show of hands: How many teachers have allowed students to dress as the Klan? Do robes meet dress code?”

Show of hands: How many SCHOOL SYSTEMS still allow students to dress like “gangsters” and “thugs” who are equally as bad as Klansmen? Do baggy pants, gold grills, Gang colored affiliated shirts or apparel meet the dress code??? …I’m sure PBM will have a great response to this.

Yelp

May 26th, 2010
1:12 pm

When I was in school, a white kid wore a short with a swatiska on it to school, and he got his tail kicked…by other white kids. Call it freedom of speech all day long, but unless everyone is privvy to your idiotic lesson plans and intentions you are treading a fine line with a child’s safety, ESPECIALLY if you haven’t made the parents privvy.

Clearly these kids know full well the implications that these radical organizations have had on our history, otherwise the kid in Dahlonega would not have been upset to see klan garb paraded around the lunchroom.

Yelp

May 26th, 2010
1:14 pm

Baggy pants and suspicious gang-related attire is a direct violation of school dress code and is dealt with accordingly (the student is sent home and referred to the school resource officer. Did any of that happen to the kids in Dahlonega?!

Again I ask, WHAT IS YOUR POINT?

Proud Black Man

May 26th, 2010
1:16 pm

@ H

“Do baggy pants, gold grills, Gang colored affiliated shirts or apparel meet the dress code??? …I’m sure PBM will have a great response to this.”

I don’t put up with this nonsense and neither do the OVERWHELMINGLY MAJORITY of the parents at the title one school my children attend. Find another stereotype/straw man to bander about racist.

Robin

May 26th, 2010
1:16 pm

Is it any wonder that our society can’t seem to get past racism? For the love of God, these teachers were trying to teach their students about bigotry and racism in American History. Should some parts of history be removed from our children’s education, because some might find it offensive?? Should we remove slavery from American history because it was deplorable? Should we do away with Black History month in case it offends non-black students? Should we skip over the Halocaust (sp) so no Jewish students are offended? Should we leave out the 9/11 terrorist attacks because a student of Middle East origin may be offended????

GET A GRIP PEOPLE!

Leaving parts of history out is a horrible omission and diservice to our students, and to the people that lived and died during those historical events. Just because it might possibly offend someone, is no reason to leave it out.

These teachers should be commended for their creativity. Their students actually ‘got’ the lesson.

Booklover

May 26th, 2010
1:19 pm

Klan wardrobes are a bad idea, but should either teacher be fired? No.

I have taught To Kill a Mockingbird several times to different grade levels. Every time, we read Atticus’s comments about the n-word as a class and discuss it. I have a set speech about the language in the book: “It’s here, but you don’t have to say the word out loud it it makes you uncomfortable.” I myself refuse to say that word.

Part of being a high school teacher–if you are really applying your lessons to meaningful real-world experiences–is that you will occasionally have to have an awkward conversation. I’d like to hope that we teachers, as professionals, can deal with those sticky situations in a successful way, but sometimes it is difficult, depending on the group of students and the personality of the teacher.

Yelp

May 26th, 2010
1:20 pm

“I suspect that you will not get the same media frenzy in the gwinnett county issue.”

Shouldn’t you be glad about this?? Weren’t you all crying foul about how these things are blown out of proportion anyway? I think the outcome would have been the same if the Gwinnett teacher had done what the Daholenga teacher did (flaunted the kids around the school) Considering the demographics of the Sweetwater cluster I actually think the outcome might have been worse! If anything, the Gwinnett teacher should lose her job for insubordinance. The superintendent of Lumpkin County said this was no big deal. The Gwinnett teacher was given a direct order and proceeded anyway.

H

May 26th, 2010
1:23 pm

Find another stereotype/straw man to bander about racist.

Ugghhhh- You think that’s a stereotype? Go visit some other predominately black schools…but you are right, nothing is gonna change with that until blacks start changing it…”Yelp” made a point about the white kid getting beat up by other white kids for wearing a swastika…maybe blacks should do the same to those who embrace this culture

Angela

May 26th, 2010
1:28 pm

@Yelp,

“Many still tend to deny that African Kings sold their people into slavery before they begin just being taken. (And, the question would/should still be were African’s ever just really taken)? Even today child slavery is still going on not only in Africa but also in Haiti. These are all facts and should not be swept under the rug. ”

What is your point? The only time I hear this come up is to justify the Trans-Atlantic slave trade to the Americas. Slavery dates back to before Christ. SO WHAT IS YOUR POINT?

****************************************************************************************************************
My point is that it is all history and it is a fact that the KKK is an organized group of people who spread HATE. Again, I am not sure what the teacher’s intent was however, it is fact and let’s not forget that the KKK is still alive and well. The one thing that they are now doing is forcing their follower to get advanced edcuation they no longer persue the poor white trash (so to speak) that they could just tell to do anything and they just did it. They have a whole new angle and strategy in mind. Again, it is still alive and let’s stop denying that it is not or we should not discuss it. And, yes, perhaps we don’t bring up Slavery until something of this sort comes up. But, I teach all facts all year long not just in Feburary and not just about Blacks in slavery but about all history positive or negative.

Yelp

May 26th, 2010
1:33 pm

We sit here and tell one another to get over racism, slavery, the holocaust, etc and live in the here and now. But in the same breath we are okay with re-enactments of these things as part of teaching history? Which is it? Get over it, or re-live it?!

Just a Thought

May 26th, 2010
1:36 pm

I also have a question for the board: Show of hands please if you or someone you love has ever been terrorized by the Klan? Please you guys, stop trying to dismiss the legitimate concerns regarding this situation.

I do not support sensationalism from either extreme. I do feel both sides are taking this out of proportion but for totally different reasons. No she should not lose her job. I don’t know enough about the culture of the school to say that diversity training is not warranted. Unless you work there you really don’t know what the school culture is regarding diversity.

But yes…a parent or student who saw this has a legitimate concern. I don’t think anyone should downplay that aspect of it. Where is the follow up dialogue with the students that goes beyond damage control? Where is the real push for understanding each other and WHY someone might be deeply offended by this?

Why were kids giggling if this was supposed to be about the seriousness of racism? The teacher said herself that students started giggling. I don’t see a real effort to make this a teachable moment. I just see everyone wanting to prove they are right about whatever their view is on this.

Robin

May 26th, 2010
1:37 pm

Yelp@

Learning about these events is NOT re-living it. Role-playing, re-enactment, etc. , is JUST that. A excellent tool and method to get/keep kids interested in the lesson being taught. Playing the part is not actually living the event.

Yelp

May 26th, 2010
1:40 pm

“I’ll post this for a third time:

If Ms. Ariemma is such a great educator, why didn’t she educate her students that the Ku Klux Klan are domestic terrorists?”

…….