Staff at an upstate New York elementary school enraged local police by reading aloud to students a children’s book that warned how cops “don’t like Black men,” it was revealed Wednesday.
Teachers at MacArthur Elementary, a public school in Binghamton with students from pre-K through fifth grade, chose “Something Happened in Our Town (A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice),” a story about how a black and a white child each respond to a police shooting, for the school’s book of the month. Teachers at the school read the book aloud to students and even posted a video of the reading to YouTube, according to local news.
The Binghamton Police Benevolent Association objected to the story. Officers warned the school’s leaders in a public statement Monday that the book would “undermine public safety” and sent a “blatant anti-police message,” teaching kids they can’t trust cops and that “police are racist.”
The school district tried to smooth over relations Wednesday, saying the book wasn’t reflective of its “support and respect” for police.
A statement from the Binghamton School District issued Monday reads, “In no way does this book represent our thinking or beliefs about our police. It is unfortunate when any profession is portrayed negatively. We apologize for the negative light this has shined on their profession and commitment to our safety.”
One of the book’s main characters, a black child named Josh, asks his father after a police shooting, “What if it was a White man in the car? Would the police have shot him?” His father answers, “They probably wouldn’t have even stopped the car.” The dad goes on to advise his son, “We can’t always count on them to do what’s right.” Josh’s brother is less polite with his opinions of police, saying, “They don’t like Black men.”
Another main character, Emma, who is white, hears her sister say that the man was killed by police “because he was Black,” and Emma’s mother says police are often “nice to White people and mean to Black people,” calling it “an unfair pattern.”
The confrontation comes amid nationwide tension over policing due to the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, a black man, by kneeling on his neck for more than 9 minutes in May of last year.
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