KY Officers' Group Says School District Is 'Targeting' Police After Assignment Asks What Links Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake

A Kentucky law enforcement group is firing back at Fayette County Public Schools for giving fifth graders an assignment on police brutality.

The Kentucky Peace Officers' Association (KPOA) shared a screenshot of the assignment on its Facebook page Monday with the caption, "Here's an example of what Fayette County Public schools administrators are asking 5th graders..." The screenshot shows a multiple-choice question which asks, "What is the relationship between Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor?" The first answer choice reads, "Both were victims of police violence, sparking protests against racial injustice."

The organization concluded the Facebook post by saying, "We'll be requesting a meeting soon."

Here’s an example of what Fayette County Public schools administrators are asking 5th graders... Please see our post earlier this month. We‘ll be requesting a meeting soon.

Posted by Kentucky Peace Officers' Association on Monday, August 31, 2020

A Fayette County social studies teacher, who was not identified to Newsweek by the district, assigned the set of questions to the fifth-grade class and paired them with an article published by the Associated Press on the recent NBA walkout to protest racial injustice following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.

Fayette County Public Schools spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said in an email to Newsweek that the questions were "not a teacher-made assignment nor was it a quiz." The article and subsequent questions came from a website called Newsela, a common resource for instructors teaching current events to students, she said.

"As part of a social studies assignment last week, one of our fifth [grade] teachers asked students to read an article about the postponement of NBA playoff games following player boycotts. The assignment included four comprehension questions related to information contained in the article.… The assignment in question presented the very adult issues facing our nation in a benign way that students could comprehend," Deffendall said.

"While we appreciate that some may believe the topic was too mature for fifth-graders, it is critical that our classrooms be safe places where students can discuss current events," Deffendall continued. "Fayette County Public Schools is committed to helping students become civically engaged citizens who are wise consumers of digital media able to think critically about the world around them. That requires we address difficult topics and teach students to have civil conversations with people who have different points of view."

Chip Nowlin, the president of KPOA, said in a statement to Newsweek that teachers do not have the right to "intentionally and negatively influence young minds" and further a political agenda based on what is reported in the media.

"According to the Kentucky Department of Education website, the core values of the department are equity, achievement, collaboration and integrity. The Kentucky Peace Officers' Association also believes educational leaders must embrace diversity, assure equality and shape the future of all of Kentucky's children. With that said, we have recently noticed a constant, steady undertone of derisive publications from KDE, as well as local school districts specifically targeting the good men and women of law enforcement," said Nowlin.

"An unfortunate reality of our world today is that sensationalism fuels the mainstream media companies.… When our educators are designing curriculums based on what a media company reports with no other facts, and using wording designed specifically to mold negative opinions of anyone wearing a uniform, we have a problem. As the Commonwealth's oldest professional organization of law enforcement officers, the KPOA will continue to speak out in support of all the dedicated public servants who run toward situations when everyone else is running away."

Earlier this month, KPOA's Facebook page publicly shared the organization's disapproval of a police violence comment made in the "Understanding Trauma and Traumatic Stress" guide and resources published by the Kentucky Department of Education. In the section discussing racial trauma, the guide reads, "This structural and systemic racism is seen in police brutality and chronic discrepancies in the arrest and incarceration of Black and Brown people."

In the Facebook post linking to the guide, the KPOA called the statement on police brutality and incarceration "unsubstantiated."

"This statement is inflammatory and prejudicial and as such serves no purpose other than to negatively influence someone's opinion of law enforcement professionals. To understand these issues should be the goal," the KPOA's post continued. "The majority of law enforcement officers go to work every day with the goal of helping others and to go home safely at the end of the shift. To attempt to cast a different light on those hardworking men and women is irresponsible and slanderous."

Update (10:27 a.m. ET 09/03/20): This story has been updated to include comments by the Kentucky Peace Officers' Association.

Screenshot of the Fifth-Grade Assignment
The screenshot of the assignment given to a fifth-grade class by a Fayette County teacher shows a multiple-choice question referencing police violence, Breonna Taylor, and Jacob Blake.