KTRH – Houston) — Cy-Fair school officials have pulled what some consider a pro-Obama poem from next week’s Black History Month program at Tipps Elementary. This after a parent complained it was too political for his daughter’s kindergarten class.
Along with the poem mailed home to parents was an internal memo which read:
“Attached is a chant about President Barack Obama. All Kindergarteners will be required to learn the chant for the Black History program.”
Parent Joseph Beaver tells KTRH News he doesn’t believe the poem provides any educational value to students.
“You’re not learning anything from it,” he says. “I can’t sit there and say in 20 years I’m going to need to know his favorite baseball team was this. That’s just useless information.”
However, Sylvester Brown at Houston’s Black Heritage Society believes the whole thing is being taken out of context.
“Is the teacher using it to express her views?” asks Brown. “I don’t think you can look at it from that side unless you’re specifically looking for something to complain about.”
Brown points out it this is Black History Month and Presidents’ Day just passed, and Obama is our first black president.
“If they just sung a song about George Washington in class, would they say the same thing that’s political?” he asks. “I mean, where’s the contrast?”
Beaver still disagrees.
“The ‘cherry tree,’ that teaches morals about trying to tell the truth,” he says. “This poem didn’t teach anything. As a public school system you need to educate people, not teach them little chants and stuff.”
Beaver first voiced his concerns to radio host Joe Pagliarulo on KTRH sister station KPRC. And Gayle Fallon, president of Houston’s teachers union says he was right to do so.
“Just like you couldn’t put something out advocating a specific religion, you can’t with politics either,” she says.
The Cy-Fair teachers union wouldn’t comment, but Fallon says the poem and attached memo never should have been mailed to parents, somebody in the school’s administration missed it.
“If the poem is overtly partisan political which it sounds like, they have a problem,” he says. “If it was just saying we’re having a black history program, it probably would not be a problem.”
Cy-Fair ISD officials admit the poem was sent to parents without administrative approval, and the teacher has since apologized.
Assistant Superintendent Kelli Durham issued KTRH News a statement saying:
“There has been a misunderstanding circulating about kindergarten teachers requiring students to recite a chant at Tipps. This resulted when a teacher inadvertently attached a note, intended for other teachers, to a parent communication that was sent home. A teacher reading the note would understand the inference: only kindergarten students whose parents wanted them to participate were “required” to learn a chant.
However, the chant selected by the kindergarten team of teachers was sent home prior to receiving principal approval. Seeking approval is a school practice for school programs and events. After the principal reviewed the poem, along with the selections that would be performed by students at other grade levels, she selected another activity recognizing President Obama –kindergarten’s historical figure to recognize.
Last week, the count for participants was less than 150 students compared to school wide enrollment of more than 1,000 students, and of those 25 were kindergarten students.”