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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    School system sued over racial epithet in book

    WARREN, Mich. — A Michigan family is suing its school district for discrimination over a classroom reading of a racial epithet in a book depicting slavery.

    According to the lawsuit, filed Nov. 3 in Macomb County Circuit Court in January, a fifth-grade teacher at Margaret Black Elementary in the Warren Consolidated School District read to her class from “”From Slave Ship to Freedom Road,”” by Julius Lester.

    The selections included one of a slave auction, with derogatory but historical references to Africans, and one with the same epithet from a slave’s viewpoint.

    The family’s lawyer Scott Combs of Novi, Mich., said the family approached him last winter. They are seeking damages in excess of $25,000 for violations of the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. It protects individuals from race-based discrimination. The girl left the district and has to repeat fifth grade.

    Officials said fifth-grade teachers and the principal discussed the book before the reading as part of their Black History Month curriculum. It is recommended for children ages 10-15. District spokesman Robert Freehan said the book was substituted for a preapproved one by the publisher without the district’s knowledge and steps have been taken to address that.

    “”It’s not historically misleading,”” he said of the material.

    The book is used in school curricula nationwide.

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