School officials in Slidell, LA don’t have much to say about “malicious drawings” from a seventh grade class that depict malicious drawings of President Obama, including one of him with a bullet hole in his head, but they should.
Controversy erupted at a Slidell junior high school late last week when at least one parent observed drawings and altered pictures depicting malicious images of President Barack Obama, including one photo in which a bullet hole was portrayed on his head. The work is believed to be part of a class project done by students at Boyet Junior High, and several similar pieces were posted on walls at the school. At least five images were posted, including a drawing of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck standing next to a tree with a sign that read, “Obama Season,” underneath a likeness of the president. Also in the depiction was an image of what appeared to be presidential candidate Mitt Romney smiling.
The pictures were part of an assignment to draw a political cartoon for history class. Done properly political cartoons can be bitingly funny and drive home serious points. One of the students depicted Newt Gingrich getting an IV infusion of cash into his campaign. That’s funny, relevant, and non-violent. You get the statement the student is making about the influence of money on American politics.
But when the images are allowed to default to our most base instincts of hate and violence, students miss an opportunity to learn how to think critically and be creative.
James “Gus” Davis, president of the local branch of the NAACP and the parent whose child raised concerns about the picture, are upset about what type of message the incident is sending. They believe the teacher should be held accountable.
“You’re supposed to be a professional, and you are a teacher. We’re putting our kids in your hands for six or seven hours per day. Not only black kids, but white kids, too, are going to look up at that wall. That doesn’t say too much about the people we put there to take care of our kids. It really is (scary) to see that. …”This just puts hate right into the children. Why would they draw that if it weren’t coming from someone else? … It was there for a few days, and no one brought it up.”
The teacher should have known better. Once he received those depictions of violence from students, he should have had a talk with them about why those images are offensive. It doesn’t matter if it was President George W. Bush, President Reagan or President Obama being depicted.
So far, the school board has been largely silent on the matter. The superintendent has said there will be an investigation.
Superintendent Trey Folse would not speak publicly about the matter but released a statement Tuesday through the school system’s public information department.”The St. Tammany Parish public school system takes matters such as this very seriously,” Folse said. “The school system became aware of this situation Friday afternoon and immediately started an investigation into this matter. The investigation will include interviews with students, parents, teachers and administrators. “The appropriate disciplinary action will be taken as soon as all of the facts are in and legal requirements have been met.”
That’s a good start but action needs to be taken swiftly. These depictions of violence are no longer a joke given the fact that acts of violence are all too often carried out. It hasn’t been that long since Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was nearly fatally shot in the head. She survived but has years of recovery head. We have to teach our kids that violence is no joking matter.