Teacher sparks fury for homework that says Floyd died of ‘drug overdose’
The Saugerties High School teacher gave students two writing examples of a “thematic” statement to prepare for the standardized Regents exam.
A high school teacher based in Saugerties, New York, gave students a writing assignment that said that George Floyd died from an overdose and heart attack rather than neck compressions and oxygen shortages.
As a result, some parents in the school district have demanded accountability from the teacher and school leadership to implement an accurate, equitable, and racially conscious curriculum.
The teacher gave the students two examples of a “thematic” statement to prepare for the standardized Regents Examination. One of the examples said that George Floyd died as a result of an overdose. The other said there was new evidence that trial juror Brandon Mitchell’s participated in racial justice protests and questioned whether former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin should get a new trial, NBC News reports.
“Even if we were not talking about this case, specifically, it takes the death of a person, I’d say, from a very cold and distant point of view,” said Sakinah Irizarry, a Saugerties Central School District parent. “I keep coming back to empathy. It is not an empathetic point of view of a person who died, it is blaming a person who’s died for their own death. That chips away at empathy.”
Irizarry told NBC News that she wants the teacher to go through a restorative justice process.
The assignment examples provided by the Saugerties High School teacher ignore the autopsy performed by Hennepin County medical examiner Dr. Andrew Baker which confirmed that police restraint and neck compressions caused Floyd’s heart to stop.
A preliminary autopsy of George Floyd‘s death that was filed before the trial had already found that the 46-year-old did not die of strangulation or asphyxiation but rather from a combination of being restrained by police and underlying health issues.
Chauvin was convicted of second and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in April; In May, his defense team requested a new trial.
The Saugerties Central School District is currently reviewing the incident.
“In this instance, when the teacher realized that a student felt uncomfortable with the assignment, the student was immediately contacted in order to acknowledge and discuss the student’s concerns,” Superintendent Kirk Reinhardt said in a statement.
Like other parents, Justine Tomkiell was angered by the assignment and blasted the school on Twitter. She also told NBCNews she wants the teacher to either be terminated or placed on administrative leave.
“I’d like to know why anyone would think this would ever be ok? My oldest starts 9th grade in Sept and this is what he has to look forward to?,” wrote Tomkiell.
“I was traumatized. I am a Black mother with three mixed children who would look Black,” Tomkiell said. “And my biggest fear is what happened with George Floyd. … And the fact that she made this assignment, and the wording … she chose the words that he was not murdered, and he died of a heart attack and an overdose.”
theGrio’s Gerren Keith Gaynor contributed to this report.
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