Schools often have to walk a fine line when it comes to parental complaints. Diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and preferences for what kids see and hear will always mean that schools can't please everyone all the time, so educators have to discern what's best for the whole, broad spectrum of kids in their care.
Sometimes, what's best is hard to discern. Sometimes it's absolutely not.
Such was the case this week when a parent at a St. Louis elementary school complained in a Facebook group about a book that was read to her 7-year-old. The parent wrote:
"Anyone else check out the read a loud book on Canvas for 2nd grade today? Ron's Big Mission was the book that was read out loud to my 7 year old. I caught this after she watched it bc I was working with my 3rd grader. I have called my daughters school. Parents, we have to preview what we are letting the kids see on there."
The book in question, "Ron's Big Mission," highlights a true story from the childhood of Challenger astronaut Ron McNair, who had experienced discrimination as a child in South Carolina because he was Black. In 1959, when he was nine years old, McNair wanted to check out books at the library, but the librarian told him the library didn't loan books to "coloreds." McNair refused to leave the library until he was allowed to check out books. Rather than give him a library card, the librarian called the police, who ultimately convinced her to just let him check out books.
Seriously, what issue could this parent possibly take with such an inspiring story of a kid standing up to injustice and fighting for the right to educate himself? This was a child who single-handedly changed a library's racial segregation policy and grew up to be an astronaut—a genuine, real-life hero. What is there to take issue with? The parent didn't specify, so we're left to conjecture, but if there's any other possible reason than racism, I can't think of one.
Rockwood Education Equity and Diversity Director Brittany Hogan told KMOX News Radio that after hearing of the complaint, other parents responded immediately in the book's defense.
"They were saying this is amazing that they were buying copies of the book," Hogan said. "One of our parents came out and said she was going to purchase a copy for every second-grader at the elementary school that her children attends."
Hogan called McNair a hero and said, "He deserves to be celebrated. His story deserves to be told to our children. It's important that we continue to move in a space that embeds diverse curriculum."
And the school responded in the best possible way—by announcing the book was going to be read aloud to the whole student body via Zoom. That's how you shut down a bigot. Boom.
Here's Pond Elementary Principal Carlos Diaz-Granados reading "Ron's Big Mission" to students via Zoom and sharing why he thinks it's an important book for kids:
Pond Elementary Principal Leads Schoolwide Read Aloud of "Ron's Big Mission" www.youtube.com
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