Racially-charged school assignment sparks controversy

Published: Oct. 11, 2016 at 11:14 PM EDT
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Kiarah Raglin is a freshman at Lafayette High School. Last week prior to fall break, Raglin’s ninth grade English class was given an assignment. That assignment, according to Lafayette Principal Bryne Jacobs, was designed to address the derogatory language that the students would soon be reading in the novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The assignment consisted of seven statements in which the students were to answer, “agree” or “disagree”. In each statement, the derogatory ‘N’ word was spelled out.

Kiarah Raglin says she, along with many of her fellow classmates, felt uncomfortable when they saw the words on the paper.

"Everyone kind of laughed, it was a nervous laugh and then we kind of sat there and asked each other, did this really happen?” Raglin said.

Kiarah Raglin says she was upset about the assignment, so she showed it to her mother.

"I felt sorry for her to be in this classroom with a predominantly white classroom with a Caucasian teacher standing over her, using these words over and over. These are not words that we use in our home. These are not words that we, use- everybody likes to say ‘your music’. These are not words that my child is accustomed to,” Kiarah Raglin’s Mother, Andrea Raglin said.

Andrea Raglin said she is not opposed to the teaching of “To Kill A Mockingbird” at her daughter's school. She says she just thinks there are more positive, more appropriate and more inclusive ways to teach the issues that are portrayed in the novel.

"The whole entire point of the book was missed because of this assignment and 7 questions specifically on this word, as opposed to other parts of the book that should've been discussed as well,” Andrea Raglin said.

Lafayette Highschool Principal Bryne Jacobs says he was unaware of the assignment until it went viral on social media.

"We were embarrassed by the assignment because we know many of our students and community members are offended. I, myself, am offended by the particular assignment as well,” Principal Jacobs said.

Principal Jacobs would not discuss whether or not the teacher who distributed the assignment would face disciplinary action. He said she apologized to her students. Principal Raglin said his primary concern is making sure every student feels safe while at school.

“We own the mistakes that happen. We apologize. We address them so that they do not happen again,” Principal Jacobs said.

Raglin said she hopes this incident opens a dialogue addressing racial injustice.

"The public felt the pain. The public had so many mixed reactions- that was what was interesting, it's a bigger picture, show that a change has to happen so that it doesn't happen again,” Raglin said.