Editor’s note 9/17/20 11:35 a.m.: The Mount Pleasant superintendent of schools has since addressed the issue, saying the cartoon should have not been used in the class. The below article is shown as published on Sept. 14.
MOUNT PLEASANT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – An op-ed cartoon on the death of George Floyd that caused controversy in Texas last month is now doing the same in Westchester County.
A Mount Pleasant, N.Y. high school teacher’s decision to use the cartoon in a lesson plan is under review by the district, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported Monday.
An 11th grade social studies teacher at Westlake High School showed a cartoon, created by David Fitzsimmons of “The Arizona Star” as commentary on Floyd’s death.
The cartoon shows a progression – a slave trader, slave owner, KKK member, and a Jim Crow era cop all kneeling on the neck of a Black man. Then, there is an image of a modern day law enforcement officer doing the same thing as the man says, “I can’t breathe.”
Some students and their parents complained the cartoon unfairly linked police to slavery and the KKK.
“My concerns are that a cartoon like this can foster violence towards the police, as what happened this past weekend in California,” said Mount Pleasant Police Chief Paul Oliva.
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Oliva said no cop in his department would try to justify what happened to Floyd.
Oliva and Town Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi, whose son is an NYPD officer, met with Superintendent Dr. Kurtis Kotes on Friday.
“They’re doing an internal investigation. The teacher’s asked to explain why he came up with this plan and what his whole direction was on it,” said Fulgenzi, who called the cartoon “very disturbing,” when asked.
The lesson plan under review included a second cartoon, showing a cop saying, “Black lives matter,” and a man in a BLM t-shirt saying, “Cops lives matter.”
Kotes did not respond to calls or emails from CBS2 on Monday.
Aiello spoke with the superintendent of a nearby district, who said teachers are generally expected to use nuance and sensitivity when developing lesson plans on hot button issues.
In August, the governor of Texas called for the firing of a teacher who used the Fitzsimmons cartoon in an 8th grade assignment. That district said the cartoon was “not” an approved part of the curriculum.
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