PS 201 teacher nixed Malcolm X: parents

Photo by Alex Robinson
By Alex Robinson

A Flushing parent was furious when her son was forbidden by a teacher to write an essay about Malcolm X for Black History Month.

Anjel Minor said her son, a fourth-grade student at PS 201 at 65-11 155th St., came home two weeks ago and told her his teacher had given the class an assignment to write about an African-American icon. When Minor’s son asked to write about Malcolm X, the teacher told him he could not as he was too violent a figure.

“I was extremely upset,” she said.

Minor immediately contacted the school’s principal to voice her shock and anger.

“When my child came home, there was a different look on his face, one that I have not seen before. When asked what was wrong and upon him telling me the occurrence that transpired in his class, I became outraged,” Minor said. “We cannot be limited to giving a blind eye to the truth of our past. This assignment was about African-American history and our children need to explore the good, the bad and the ugly to truly understand why we are where we are and how we got to where we are.”

Minor met with the school’s assistant principal the Friday after the incident.

The controversy then prompted a meeting the following Monday between parents, the school’s principal and a number of elected officials, including City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows).

“Malcolm X is a historical figure and a hero to many New Yorkers that we believe should be celebrated in our schools,” a city Department of Education spokesman said in a statement.

A second parent said her child, who is in a different PS 201 class from Minor’s son, experienced a similar incident, according to Lancman’s office.

“Malcolm X is an important historical figure and not just for the black community, but in American history,” Lancman said. “Certain historical figures might be complicated, might be a challenge to learn about, but kids need to learn about them.”

An agreement was reached at the meeting that a public apology would be made at a school assembly Feb. 10. Minor said this, however, never happened. The teacher apologized to each fourth-grade class, but did so in a way Minor said made her son feel singled out.

“Her unprofessional manner combined with her lack of African-American history made what should have been a great learning experience for my child become a nightmare,” Minor said.

Unsatisfied with the apology, Minor met with a senior deputy chancellor of the DOE Tuesday afternoon. She said the meeting went well and she is working things out with DOE and the school’s principal.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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