Todd Starnes of Fox News is reporting on the incident which involves a third-grader at the Harold McCormick Elementary School in Elizabethton, Tennessee who came home from school one day with a handout that asked "What does it take to be on Mount Rushmore?"
The handout, which depicts Mount Rushmore, goes on to say that George Washington was a “prime breeder of black people” and that Theodore Roosevelt once called Africans "ape-like." It also makes derogatory remarks about Thomas Jefferson and even Abraham Lincoln.
When the child's mother, Sommer Bauer, followed the links provided on the sheet, they led her to the Nation of Islam website.
Concerned, she contacted the teacher to find out why this material was handed out in the classroom.
“At first, she did not recall which paper it was,” Bauer told Fox. “Later in the day, she found the paper and told me she didn’t like what it said – and said she must have printed it by mistake.”
However, the teacher went on to tell her that the students were told they were not to take the paper home, that it was supposed to remain in the classroom.
This caused Bauer even more alarm, who then reached out to the principal who promised to investigate the incident. Thus far, she's heard nothing.
However, the school superintendent, E. C. Alexander, did get involved and seemed genuinely horrified when Starnes questioned him about the handout.
“My goodness, that we would promote bigoted or racist points of view – merciful heavens,” he told Fox. “I can assure you that is not the case.”
Alexander then gave Starnes a different account of what happened and claimed that the sheet, which was never meant for distribution, had been taken by the child from the teacher's work station without permission.
According to a statement he posted on the Elizabethton Public Schools website, as soon as he heard about the handout he called the Principal who told him that the sheet was not a handout, had been printed off the Internet for the purpose of "providing background material for a teacher observation" and was located on a separate table from which the student had taken it without permission.
He then went on to disparage Fox News for sensationalizing the story and misrepresenting the facts.
"Yet, he never got around to telling us what was misleading or totally incorrect or sensational," Starnes responded. "And we still don’t know how that Nation of Islam information found its way into that third grade classroom."
But now there's a new wrinkle in the case. A second parent has come forward to say that her child also came home with the same Nation of Islam handout.
“Yes, they were handed out and yes the students did look at them and read them,” said the parent, who asked not to be identified.
She also told Starnes that the reason she came forward was because of how the school has been treating Bauer's son.
So what happened inside that third grade classroom at Harold McCormick Elementary School?
According to the second parent, the children were separated into four groups which were each given two sheets of paper.
“The teacher held up each one and said, ‘These do not go home. These are just to use here,” the parent told Starnes.
One of the papers was the Nation of Islam sheet. Although she did not teach from it, she handed it to the students.
More than just parents are expressing alarm at this disturbing detail in the story.
“The fact that students were cautioned against allowing their parents to see anything is deeply troubling,” Julie West, president of the Tennessee-based Parents For Truth in Education told Fox. “The only reasonable explanation is they don’t want parents to know what it is their children are learning.”
Perhaps this whole story is based on misunderstandings and innocent mistakes, Starnes concludes, but what is not innocent is how the school district is now treating the eight-year-old boy who first took the paper home to his parents.
" . . . (W)hat is not acceptable is sending out mass emails accusing the child of pilfering a 'sheet' from his teacher’s work station," Starnes opines.
"If I didn’t know better – I’d say that little boy is the victim of grownup bullying."
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