Jersey City

NJ Catholic School Faces Outrage Over History Assignment Critics Call Anti-Cop

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The last day of school at a New Jersey Catholic school was marked by controversy, after an assignment — which school officials said was taken out of context — had parents and police demanding action be taken.

Concerns over the history assignment at Hudson Catholic in Jersey City started after a screenshot of a question asked students to "Find a famous case of lynching and compare it to a famous case where an African American was slain by a police officer."

Some have said the Powerpoint presentation topic was markedly anti-police, and demanded the school scrap the assignment entirely.

"I think that's a difficult connection to make, and in this day and age, you don't want a misinterpretation of that," said Patrick Sullivan, an alum of the school and a Jersey City police captain. He also is the parent of an incoming freshman at the school.

"I'm sure there's some context. Race relations is a very important subject, but I don't think the message that was conveyed there was the message they were sending," Sullivan said.

The Archdiocese of Newark said the screenshot, which made the rounds quickly on social media, did not accurately portray the teacher's intent.

"The assignment intended to encourage a thoughtful dialogue of post-Civil War and modern-day racism and violence against African Americans, and followed comprehensive classroom presentations and discussions on promoting better communication and information to ensure fair and equal treatment of all," the archdiocese said in a statement.

The school still quickly pulled the assignment after complaints from parents and police, many of whom are alumni of Hudson Catholic. The president of the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association said in a statement that "it is unfortunate that Hudson Catholic, a well-respected learning institution, is now being cast in a negative light over one ill-conceived assignment."

For his part, Sullivan said he was satisfied with the school's fast response, saying "one teacher, one assignment doesn't make the entire school."

The district said it was reviewing the matter, and students have been given a new assignment but the school didn't disclose the new assignment.

The outrage comes amid a national conversation about how race, in relation to U.S. history, is being taught in schools across the country. Just last week, Florida became the latest state to ban “critical race theory” from its public schools.

Governors and legislatures in Republican-led states are considering or have signed into law bills that would limit how teachers can frame American history.

The Black Lives Matter movement has helped bring contentious discussions about race to the forefront of American discourse, and classrooms have become a battleground. Supporters contend that federal law has preserved the unequal treatment of people on the basis of race and that the country was founded on the theft of land and labor.

Opponents of critical race theory say schoolchildren should not be taught that America is fundamentally racist.

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