Some community members in Hamilton County, Tenn., claim that a recent teacher in-service was inappropriate after slides, featuring the titles "White Privilege" and "Racism," were shared online. According to one citizen of the county, the slides are proof that the "liberal left is running the school systems and pushing their agenda onto our children with our tax dollars." Now, school board members are speaking out.
On Friday, teachers in Hamilton County's Opportunity Zone, which is comprised of the district's 12 highest-needs and lowest-performing schools, gathered for the third annual Urban Education Institute. Robert Jackson, a former NFL player turned educator, served as the guest speaker.
Jackson spoke to teachers regarding "how adverse childhood experiences can impact behavior in the classroom and methods to have effective classroom management," the Times Free Press reports.
Slides from Jackson's presentation read that due to white privilege, white people are "less likely to be followed, interrogated or searched by law enforcement," "skin tone will not affect their credit or financial responsibility," and "when accused of crime, portrayed as good person." Under the title of "Racism," the slide read, "People of color cannot be racist because they lack the institutional power to adversely affect white lives."
Patrick Hampton, vice president of community engagement for Hamilton Flourishing, a local conservative political organization, who has criticized the county's school district in the past, shared the slides on Facebook and added that "tax payers should be furious."
The slides have caused concern with school board member Rhonda Thurman, of District 1, who believes the presentation would encourage the division of their community based on race.
"I've heard from several teachers who attended the training, and I had some who said they felt very uncomfortable and they did not like the whole discussion and didn't know why they had to hear about it," Thurman told the Times Free Press. "We don't need to be ‘Balkanizing’ our school system. How is a white teacher going to feel if this is how they think black people think about them?"
However, other board members, as well as the district's spokesman, say that the slides shared on social media have been taken out of context.
"The slides are being misrepresented as a presentation on white privilege. For the slides in question, the speaker was reviewing terms that can impact perception and definitions attached to the terms when the slides were used. White privilege was one of several terms on slides during the short part of the presentation," district spokesman Tim Hensley told the outlet.
District 4 board member Tiffanie Robinson wrote in a statement: "Our teachers want to know and understand their students. Many of our teachers, fortunately, did not grow up in the environments our students are coming from. Understanding their home life and community helps our teachers better understand how to build relationships with their students and thus better instruct them toward success.”
Robinson added: “Our school system is striving for progression and empathy in the classroom — the public has asked for this and we as public servants have listened."
Jackson and representatives for Hamilton County Schools did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s off-hours requests for comment.
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