Target: Superintendent Fred Walsh
Goal: Reinstate teacher who taught kids about racial prejudice in the justice system.
Jenna Lee-Walker was a ninth-grade English teacher at the High School For the Arts, Imagination and Inquiry In New York City, when she was fired for teaching her students about the Central Park Five. Lee-Walker had allegedly had problems with the school’s administration, and had quarreled with them for a couple years.
The Central Park Five were five young, black and Latino men arrested for raping a jogger in 1989. They confessed after hours of psychological torture from investigators, although they were innocent. They were released and paid $40 million when someone else confessed in 2002. Lee-Walker included the lesson in her plan because she wanted to highlight racial prejudice in court cases and America’s tendency to assume black males as guilty.
She was reprimanded for including it in her lesson, and an assistant principal said they didn’t want to “rile up” the school’s African American students, afraid they might cause “little riots.” Lee-Walker said she was teaching the facts of the case. Although she was supposed to be given 60 days notice of firing, she was only given nine, and has since filed a lawsuit against the school and the Department of Education. Let the Superintendent know she should be reinstated for teaching the facts of a sensitive case.
Dear Superintendent Walsh,
We urge you to reinstate former English teacher Jenna Lee-Walker. She was allegedly fired for teaching about the infamous court case of the Central Park Five. The comments made in response by an assistant principal about getting the African American students “riled up” demonstrates the same type of racial prejudice Lee-Walker was teaching about.
Lee-Walker was just teaching the facts of the case, which sounds as if it would fit into the curriculum on law. She was attempting to challenge students to think about the racial prejudices that are in place, and to fight them. By firing her you have only upheld the racist standards of the past.
Please consider reinstating Lee-Walker. By presenting a controversial case in the light of racism, especially with many students coming from the same area as the Central Park Five, she was asking them to contemplate on the institutional racism in the country. As an educator, that is something she should be impressing on teens. Lee-Walker should not have been fired for including this in her curriculum. We urge you to reinstate her to her previous role.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Beyond My Ken