For Black History Month, elementary school students at P.S. 201 in Flushing, N.Y., were tasked with writing about any prominent historical figure but when a few decided upon slain civil rights leader Malcolm X (pictured), some teachers at the school put the brakes on their selection, reportedly referring to the controversial activist as “bad” and violent,” reports the New York Daily News.
A few parents of the grade schoolers were angered by the educator’s anti-Malcolm X stance and could not fathom why they painted the iconic leader as such a malevolent demagogue to the children. Parent Angel Minor said her 9-year-old son told her: “Mom, we were doing black history projects and I was told we can’t do Malcolm X because he was violent.”
And Minor made sure that her son didn’t buy in to that message, “[My mom said,] ‘I want him to know and understand.’ My mom took a stand because something was X’d out, and my mom made a difference. She said, ‘I want him to know that Black history really means something. To be Black means a lot.’”
The parents not only took their complaints to the school principal but to the district as well. Council member Rory Lancman, whose Queens district encompasses the Flushing school, also got wind of the controversy surrounding the Black History project. “Certain historical figures might be complicated, might be a challenge to learn about, but kids need to learn about them,” Lancman told NBC New York.
Lancman and other community leaders met with parents and school officials at the district to discuss the incendiary matter. The councilman told NBC New York, “The school took them seriously,” he said. “There’s a plan for going forward. The school acknowledged there was a mistake to leave the kids with the impression that Malcolm X is somehow an [in]appropriate subject to study.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Education said in a statement, “Malcolm X is a historical figure and a hero to many New Yorkers that we believe should be celebrated in our schools.”
Watch news coverage of P.S. 201′s no-Malcolm X assignments.
The grade school, which has a 43 percent Black student population, was at the center of controversy in 2012 when a kindergarten teacher gave her students a worksheet with a picture of a gun and a robber on it for a spelling lesson.