Officials at Brantley Elementary School in Selma, Ala. placed a sixth-grade teacher on paid administrative leave on Wednesday after he directed his students to reenact the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Brown, a resident of Ferguson, Mo., died on Aug. 9 after a police officer, Darren Wilson, shot him a number of times.
The reenactment came to light on Tuesday after Jessica Baughn, the mother of an 11-year-old Brantley Elementary student, complained about it on Sound Off Selma, a Facebook page, reports The Selma Times-Journal.
According to Baughn, the unidentified teacher instructed students to research the details of Brown’s death. Where did it happen? How many times did he get shot?
As local school district superintendent Don Willingham later explained, the sixth-grade children then presented a skit about the incident in class. Willingham noted that the Ferguson shooting initially came up in class because the teacher was discussing current events.
According to Baughn, the teacher asked his charges to construct fake paper guns. For bullets, he had his charges use little wads of paper. Baughn’s son, a white kid named Jimmy Griffin, was the shooter in the skit.
Not content with one racially-charged murder scene, the teacher also had students perform a reenactment of the 2012 incident when George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin.
Black kids played both Brown and Martin, notes the Advertiser.
Baughn was appalled.
“I picked him up from school and I could tell something was bothering him. Then he started telling me what happened,” she told the Montgomery Advertiser. “Why would you have sixth-grade students who are 11 years old reenact violence like that? I just don’t understand.”
She said she doesn’t think elementary schoolers should be reenacting or even discussing violent deaths.
“It scares me as a parent, because any one of those children could have picked up their aunt, uncle, grandma or whoever’s gun and pointed it at another child and it went off accidentally,” she added, according to the Times-Journal.
Willingham, the superintendent, was contrite.
“We wish the conversation didn’t have to take place, but it’s been reported to us and we’re addressing it as quick as we can,” he told the local newspaper.
“I did put the teacher on administrative leave with pay, because we wanted to do the investigation,” he added. “It’s standard procedure.”
He noted that the investigation would involve interviews with students.
Audrey Larkin Strong, the principal at Brantley Elementary, also proclaimed that the reenactment was inappropriate for a bunch of sixth graders.
“Brantley’s culture does not support division,” she told the Times-Journal. “We do recognize diversity, but we do not support division.”
Willingham said he expects to resolve the fracas by the end of the week. He gave no hints concerning what the resolution might entail.