"N-word": Slur found in Walters Elementary reading material

WALTERS, OK (KSWO) - A father in Walters is concerned after he says he found a racial slur in a book sent home from school with his 9-year-old daughter.

Douglas Brown said earlier this week, his daughter was doing her homework, which was to read a book called Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World. He said his daughter asked him what a word in the book meant and was shocked when he saw it was a racial slur.

"I mean it was the word you don't teach your kids, you don't say. I don't think it's okay for any race to say. I told her you're not reading that anymore, put it up. I asked her where she got it from and she said school," Brown said.

Brown said he couldn't believe the school would let children as young as his daughter read that.

"I could see high school or college," Brown said. "I could see even a high schooler depending on how their maturity level is. Every child is different. She says the teachers at school explained it to her. Well, they explained it to her and she still came home and didn't understand it and asked me about it. So that, to me, tells me she's not mature enough for them to be teaching her that stuff"

Superintendent Jimmie Dedmon said he has done research on the book and believes it is age appropriate.

"Scholastic.com says the book is on a third to fifth-grade level. This book is being read in the fourth grade. Accelerate reader shows its a 3.9 reading level which means third-grade 9th month," Dedmon said.

Dedmon said you should also take into account who the book was written by. The author, Mildred Pitts Walter, is African American and the book actually won the Coretta Scott King Award.

"It's for African American authors that write children's book or young adult books to keep African American culture and history relevant," Dedmon said. "This book is intended to show that side and I do think it's important that whenever we do discuss any historical aspects, we must view it from all sides, not just one side."

Brown said he thinks the lesson being taught in the book is a valuable one but thinks there are much better ways to teach it than using that specific word.

"Our kids do need to be taught about slavery just like about the Indians and everything so it doesn't happen again," Brown said. "But you can use the word African American to describe that. Not harmful words. If a kid today, any kid, goes and starts blurting that out in public, in today's society there's not going to be a good outcome."

Dedmon said he thinks using that word in the context of the atrocities of slavery can be a great learning tool for the teachers and should be left in.

"If you gloss over that, I don't know that you can teach that aspect in time and give the true feelings behind some of those," Dedmon said. "I think you're disingenuous to a point on the social injustice that was faced at that time if you censor that or delete that."

Dedmon said the book is part of the curriculum for the state of Oklahoma and they've been using it for several years. Going forward, the book will continue to be used but a note will be sent home to parents so they are aware of it before their kids read it. They will then be able to have their kids opt out of those lessons.

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