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LYNNWOOD, Wash. - The mother of a 5th grader at Meadowdale Elementary School feels her son’s homework assignment was racist.
Shawna Gallagher’s 11-year-old son, Blaine, was asked to write a journal entry for his social studies class explaining what it would be like to watch Native Americans slaughter colonists.
The assignment lays out a violent scenario. In part it explains, “several dozen colonists – men, women, and children – were slaughtered with their own guns. Many of these colonists were killed at their dinner table as they shared their meal with their ‘friends.’”
The lesson asks the students to answer questions in the perspective of a colonist. The questions include, “Express your conflicting feelings toward the Indians.”
Blaine Gallagher is the only Native American in his class and a member of the Klamath Tribe. His mom couldn't believe her son was asked to describe what it was like to “slaughter” colonists.
“I have never seen where they ask a student who is of Native descent to write in first person as a colonist,” Gallagher said. “That was beyond unacceptable to me.”
“It was upsetting,” Blaine said. “I didn’t want to read it because it told me about slaughtering by my own people.”
The lesson was not a part of the Meadowdale Elementary social studies curriculum. Teachers can supplement the lesson plan with their own assignments, the Edmonds School District said. This homework assignment was created in 1971, which Gallagher said is clearly outdated.
“When I asked who approved the supplemental material, they said no one,” she said.
Edmonds School District spokesperson Debbie Joyce Jakala says administrators will consider what happened to prevent the “rare” incident from happening again in the future.
“We are embracing that it was inappropriate and want to take steps to correct that,” Jakala said. “This hopefully will not reflect on what we have been striving and working toward as a school district.”
However, Gallagher said her son’s teacher had a different response.
“The teacher let me know she was offended by me bringing up my concerns,” she said.
The Edmonds School District said cultural sensitivity is a top priority for staff. Jakala said supplemental lessons will be monitored closely in the future.