The student, 13-year-old Tyler McIntyre, felt singled out by his teacher’s words during the Nov. 2 history lesson, his parents said.
“It’s insensitive; it alienated my son,” his father, Tyrie McIntyre, told The Washington Post. “He felt as though all eyes were on him.”
Tyler’s parents contacted Folsom Cordova Unified School District officials and filed a complaint, saying Hart made racist comments in class. They also asked the district to place their son in another history class and to “ensure that other students are not further subjected to these racially insensitive remarks.”
Victoria McIntyre said such comments shouldn’t be used in discussions about the Constitution or equality.
“As a parent and an extension of my child, I’m here to advocate for him,” she said. “When we send him to school, we trust that the school and teachers are doing the same in our absence. I don’t feel that that was done.”
According to the complaint, the assistant principal told Victoria McIntyre that he has known Hart, who is white, for years, and that the teacher’s comments “came as no surprise.”
Efforts to reach Hart on Tuesday were unsuccessful. But he told the Sacramento Bee that he used a lynching analogy to make the discussion “interesting” and to catch students’ attention.
“Here’s what I said: ‘If you hang black people in the South, that means that you hang any black person who comes from outside the state,'” he told the Bee.
In the school’s formal response to the complaint, principal Kelli Phillips wrote that Hart did make a reference to “hanging all blacks” as an example of states’ treatment of individuals under the Constitution. Phillips interviewed six students, one of whom recalled references to lynching while the other five didn’t.
School officials have directed Hart to not use stereotypes or culturally insensitive language that may be misconstrued or may be hurtful to others.
“For challenging and controversial lessons that require making complex or difficult inferences, create very simply analogies that do not focus on the controversy, but can convey the message clearly to teenagers in a manner to which they can relate,” the formal response states.
Hart told the Bee that he will never refer to lynching again during discussions about the Constitution or equality, and that in the future, he’d use simpler concepts, such as traffic fines, to explain how officials in one state should treat residents from other states. He also said that he has spent much of the year teaching students about racial equality.
Daniel Thigpen, spokesman for the school district, said racist remarks “have no place in our schools,” and that Hart’s comments were not intended to target or harass any student.
“Folsom Cordova schools are committed to ensuring a safe, inclusive learning environment for all students free from harassment of any form,” Thigpen said in a statement. “We take all such allegations seriously and will always investigate them fully and take appropriate action.”
It’s unknown if Hart is facing disciplinary actions. Thigpen said the school district is prohibited by law from disclosing information on personnel matters.
The McIntyres, however, said they’re dissatisfied with how the school district addressed the incident. They said they would have appreciated an apology, but that none was made.
“As a parent, you try to bring your kid up, you try to shelter him,” said Tyrie McIntyre, who works as a police officer. “You try to help him through certain situations. You don’t know what things are going to impact him. We’re trying to handle this as delicately as possible. Unfortunately, we’re not sure how it’s going to impact him.”
Victoria McIntyre, a preschool teacher and day-care center owner, said her concern is not only how the comments might affect her son, the oldest of their three children, but also the impact on other students.
“Children are very impressionable,” she said. “To have these types of views poured into the minds of children, they’re going to be adults one day. I think it’s very important that children are being shaped in the right way.”
McIntyre said her son told her that there was at least one other African American student in the class.