A class assignment at a Dallas high school asking students to potentially defend the suspected Kenosha, Wisconsin, shooter as a hero is drawing complaints from students and parents.
The two-part assignment was given to seniors in an English class at W.T. White High School, the Dallas Independent School District (ISD) confirmed to CNN.
The first part of the assignment asked students to write a half-page biography for six people, among them 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse.
The others on the list were Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, Malcolm X, George Floyd and Joseph Rosenbaum, one of the victims of the Kenosha shooting. The names of Gandhi and Malcolm X were misspelled, according to a photo of the assignment obtained by CNN affiliate KTVT.
Dallas ISD confirmed to CNN that the photo was authentic.
In the second part of the assignment, students were then asked to write a one-page essay on which of those six people they believed best demonstrated the concept of a hero.
Police named Rittenhouse as a suspect in a shooting during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 25 that left two people dead and a third person seriously wounded. He faces homicide charges as well as a felony charge for attempted homicide, court records show.
Some users on social media criticized the assignment as racially insensitive, given that Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and injuring a third at a demonstration over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man.
The students of W.T. White High School are 81% Hispanic and 10% African American, according to a fact sheet from Dallas ISD for the 2019-2020 school year.
The sister of one of the students in the class criticized the integrity of the assignment in an interview with KTVT.
“It was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, the spelling,’ ‘Oh my gosh, there are no women on here,’ and then very ardently the fact that a White supremacist murderer’s name is on a list with important historical figures,” Kristian, who was identified only by her first name, told the news station.
The Dallas ISD apologized for the assignment, which it said had not been approved. The assignment was removed from Google Classroom, where it was posted, and students are not required to complete it, according to a statement.
Robyn Harris, director of news and information for Dallas ISD, told CNN she was not certain how long the assignment had been up, though she said she does not “get the sense that anyone turned it in.”
“Racial equity is a top priority in Dallas ISD, and we remain committed to providing a robust teaching environment where all students can learn,” the district said in a statement to CNN. “It is important that we continue to be culturally sensitive to our diverse populations and provide a space of respect and value.”
The district did not publicly identify the teacher who made the assignment, though it added that it was taking “appropriate steps.” Citing personnel policies, it declined to comment further.
“We absolutely take these incidents seriously and even though these are personal matters, we are absolutely making sure that the proper and appropriate measures are being taken,” Harris said.