School assignment on the 'N-word' angers parents

Parents with students at Chandler Unified School District are upset about an assignment related to Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn.

CHANDLER, Ariz. - A ninth-grade school assignment is causing concern for at least two parents after their son says he learned about the "N-Word" in class.

"Just totally inappropriate for a 13-14-year-old audience," says Ernest Russell who has a son at Hamilton High School.

Khadijah Abdul-Ghane is also taking issue with a teacher at the school.

"The most shocking part for me was the fact it was even brought up in the classroom without our knowledge," she said. 

The assignment was a proactive approach to talk about the word before reading Huckleberry Finn. The classic novel is part of the approved curriculum at Hamilton High School and there's no way to avoid the word if you read the book.

This particular teacher had students read an article with quotes from ASU professor Neil Lester who teaches a class on the word.

"As I get older and my students get younger, I find they are very disconnected with the realities of history," Lester told 12 News.

The article deals with the complex history of the word and even talks about how some people use it as a term of endearment in today's society.

"The most shocking part of the assignment was the concept that the term n***a means friend," Russell said.

Terry Locke, a spokesperson for the Chandler Unified School District says the assignment is not part of it's mandatory curriculum, but it is part of a "curriculum used by high schools all over the state and country, not just Hamilton."

Still, the parents are concerned with a pattern they see in their son's school.

"Having concerns about hazing with him being on the football team and that being a fresh incident. And this is all within a few weeks. It's starting to be a little overwhelming as a parent," Russell says.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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