In the city of Binghamton, New York, a debate has broken out after a video surfaced of a local public school teacher reading a “book of the month” selection to a class at MacArthur Elementary School. The book is titled “Something Happened in our Town,” and it’s about a conversation between children and parents after a police shooting results in the death of a Black man. That can be a very confusing and distressing story for children to grasp, so it’s not as if some educational material is totally out of line. This book, however, has a very clear message that’s being imparted to children. Cops are bad and racist and everything else you might imagine. The video was taken down after representatives for the local police union went public with their disapproval of this sort of brainwashing. (WNBF News)
Law enforcement unions are strongly criticizing the Binghamton City School District for allowing a controversial book to be read to MacArthur Elementary students.
A video of a teacher reading from “Something Happened in Our Town” appeared on YouTube for several days. The recording was removed on Friday after word spread on social media.
The April “Book of the Month” is recommended by the publisher for children between four and eight years old.
One passage includes a conversation in which a girl suggests a person was shot by a police officer “because he’s Black.” Another character in the book indicates police officers “don’t like black men.”
I’ve listened to the full recording of a reading of this book (which I’ll embed below) and the descriptions in the article really don’t fully explore just how biased the book is. As the parents explain to the child that a man had been shot by the police, it’s almost as if an argument breaks out. The mother says that the shooting was an accident. The father jumps in to declare that it wasn’t an accident at all and the cop shot him “because he was black.” At another point in the book, an older girl flatly declares that “cops don’t like black men.” When the confused child asks what would have happened if the man had been white, she’s told that he “probably never would have been pulled over to begin with.”
All of this “information” is delivered nearly free of context, though there is a brief section where one of the adults admits that “not all police” are evil racists. White people are characterized as being generally “afraid of Black men and boys.” And this is being spoon-fed to elementary school children.
The local PBA put out a statement yesterday saying, “there is a blatant anti-police message portrayed in the book.” The President of the local Fraternal Order of Police joined him, saying “we find this disgusting and hypocritical.” He added that the teacher’s anti-police narrative was “disgusting.”
In a possibly hopeful sign, the school district issued at least a partial apology on the same day, noting that the video had been taken down. The statement spoke of the district’s “support and respect for the brave police officers that protect our community.” It went on to say, “we apologize for the negative light this has shined on their profession.” That would have been fairly good if they hadn’t felt the need to also defend the original choice to promote the book by saying that it was intended to “promote inclusion and anti-racism.”
If you ever find yourself wondering how we manage to keep producing generations of young people with seemingly inherent anti-police biases, look no further than this. The indoctrination is starting before the kids are old enough to walk home by themselves. By the time they graduate high school it’s probably a lost cause.
Here’s the video of someone reading the book so you can judge for yourself. Fortunately, as with most children’s books, it’s fairly short.