*A Northern California middle school teacher is catching heat for using the concept of lynching black people to illustrate the meaning of equality.
According to a complaint filed by the family of an African American student, while discussing the Constitution earlier this month at Sutter Middle School in Sacramento County, history teacher Woody Hart attempted to explain equality by saying that “when you hang one black person, you have to hang them all (as) that is equality.”
The black student, 13-year-old Tyler McIntyre, said all of the other students turned around and looked at him, the only African American in the room, eager to see how he’d respond to the teacher’s remarks, noted the Sacramento Observer:
He’d been there before, feeling as if all eyes were on him, as he’s one of only a few students of color at the middle school. He says he’s gotten into arguments and fist fights with other students who have told him to “go sit in the back of the bus,” have called him the N-word and frequently use the racial slur in his presence.
“They think it’s fine to just use it,” McIntyre said.
“It’s insensitive; it alienated my son,” his father, Tyrie McIntyre, told The Washington Post about the incident. “He felt as though all eyes were on him.”
Tyler’s parents filed a complaint with Folsom Cordova Unified School District, saying Hart made racist comments in class. They also asked the district to place their son in another history class and to “ensure that other students are not further subjected to these racially insensitive remarks.”
“As a parent and an extension of my child, I’m here to advocate for him,” said Tyler’s mom, Victoria McIntyre. “When we send him to school, we trust that the school and teachers are doing the same in our absence. I don’t feel that that was done.”
According to the complaint, the assistant principal told Victoria McIntyre that he has known Hart, who is white, for years, and that the teacher’s comments “came as no surprise.”
Hart told the Sacramento Bee that he has spent much of the year teaching his students about racial equality, and used the lynching analogy to make the discussion “interesting” and to catch students’ attention. Hart said he was trying to make an academic argument that states have to treat individuals from outside of a state the same way it treats its own residents.
“Here’s what I said: ‘If you hang black people in the South, that means that you hang any black person who comes from outside the state,’” he told the Bee.
In the school’s formal response to the complaint, principal Kelli Phillips wrote that Hart did indeed make a reference to “hanging all blacks” as an example of states’ treatment of individuals under the Constitution. Phillips also said she interviewed six students, one of whom recalled references to lynching while the other five did not.
School officials have directed Hart to not use stereotypes or culturally insensitive language that may be misconstrued or may be hurtful to others.
“For challenging and controversial lessons that require making complex or difficult inferences, create very simply analogies that do not focus on the controversy, but can convey the message clearly to teenagers in a manner to which they can relate,” the formal response states.
Victoria McIntyre, a preschool teacher and day-care center owner, said her concern is not only how the comments might affect her son, the oldest of their three children, but also the impact on other students.
“Children are very impressionable,” she said. “To have these types of views poured into the minds of children, they’re going to be adults one day. I think it’s very important that children are being shaped in the right way.”