An LA School Handed Out A Map To Help Students Learn The Capitals But Many Say It Had A Blatantly Racist Message
Fifth graders at Downey Unified School District in Los Angeles were given a map of the United States with the letters C-A-N-T across the southern border to indicate immigrants “can’t just cross it.” Parents of students at the school were fuming and felt the study guide was racist.
The letters represented the states California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The acronym is intended to be a mnemonic device but it was the phrase “you can’t just cross the border of the U.S.” accompanying the image that left parents upset. The Southeast Los Angeles city is largely Latinx, so the assignment struck a nerve.
Erick Galindo of LAist looked into how this study guide found its way into a classroom, and things got messy from there.
The study guide was downloaded by a fifth-grade teacher from a website.
Galindo found that the study guide, 50 States and Capitals, was created by a teacher in San Francisco with information pulled from a YouTube channel by someone named Ms. Alexander. A teacher at Downey Unified school bought the guide from Teachers Pay Teachers, a marketplace where teachers can buy and sell syllabus materials.
The teacher did not review it before they handed it out to students over Veterans Day weekend. Parents were furious when they saw it and aired their grievances on social media.
“This kind of stuff needs to f——— stop,” Jose, a parent of a student at the school, told LAist.
The district stopped handing out the guide and is now reviewing how educators audit third-party teaching materials. Teachers Pay Teachers has also stopped selling the guide.
“I was concerned that she had gotten something like that,” Emily said. “I grew up here. I have a kid who goes to school here. It’s scary.” Emily was one of the parents who called the district office, where she said a representative told her they were handling it.
The district is proactively taking steps to address the situation.
According to LAist, the school immediately spoke with parents of students who used the handout and apologized. The district won’t publicly reveal which teachers used it, although they insist there will be consequences for the educator.
“Obviously, the structural elements of this worksheet did not convey an inclusive environment,” said Ashley Greaney, the district’s public relations coordinator. ” As an inclusive district, we absolutely do not condone any type of content that is not inclusive in nature.”
The assistant superintendent educator Wayne Shannon said it was nonunique for teachers to be using third-party websites but that every now and then a teacher may make a poor selection. Shannon said teachers must now fully review anything they hand out to children. Some parents wondered if the district was doing enough, and feared the study guide might just end up in different schools.
“We need to talk about it,” Jose said. “We can’t be quiet about it. This is a big deal. It a perfect example of how this stuff is so normal, or else it wouldn’t be happening in Downey,” Jose explained.
LAist finds the YouTube series that inspired the “CANT” map.
Galindo was able to track down the school teacher selling the guide, Brian Louie. Louie declined to comment but said the lesson plan was based on online resources. Several YouTube videos had similar mnemonic devices.
A woman who goes by Ms. Alexander appeared to mirror the handout nearly identically.
“The very first thing we are going to start with is ‘can’t,'” Ms. Alexander as she writes C-A-N-T on each letter’s accompanying state. “This is the Mexican border, you can’t cross the border without the right paperwork.”
Many parents in the comments of the YouTube wanted to know what the purpose was of having any commentary about the border at all when it was irrelevant to the assignment. Teachers Pay Teachers quickly addressed the issue, although there’s no way to know how far the guide has circulated.
“We take resource quality and offensive content very seriously,” Kristin Hodgson of Teachers Pay Teacher told LAist. “It’s extremely important to us that Teachers Pay Teachers’ resources make educators and their students feel respected and safe. If anyone becomes aware of TpT content that may be offensive, they can use our community flagging tool to report the resource to us for review.”
The website relies on a peer-review process to flag any inappropriate or incorrect content. The Downey Unified District reported the lesson plan on the website and it was promptly taken down, and the page for the guide is now no longer available. As for the parents, they remain skeptical that YouTube is a good source of information for students.
“I can’t imagine what’s happening in other schools,” Lisa, a parent of one of the students, said. “How does a YouTube video become homework?”