Students shown ‘inappropriate’ film in school


Parents of students who attend DeKalb School of the Arts say their children were shown an “inappropriate” film that displayed elements of racism and sexism during class.

 According to parents, the students of Jim Dickson were shown an excerpt from the film The Triplets of Belleville to a third level French class.

 The animated movie, made in 2003, received a 94 percent rating on and film critic Roger Ebert described it as “creepy, eccentric, eerie, flaky, freaky, funky, grotesque, inscrutable, kinky, kooky, magical, oddball, spooky, uncanny, uncouth and unearthly. Especially uncouth.” Other critics have called the movie a “classic.”

 However, a particular scene in the movie upset parents. Nwandi Lawson, whose daughter attends DeKalb School of the Arts and watched the movie in Dickson’s class, said the school should have a better screening policy.

 “When I saw this video, I gasped from the moment that several morbidly obese animated caricatures of women exit a limousine, one with a small man wedged between the cheeks of her buttocks,” Nwandi wrote in an email exchange with The Champion. “Like my daughter, I was furious by the time I arrived at images of a grotesquely drawn Black woman who gyrates across the stage with her bared breasts jiggling at the audience before turning her backside to the camera and having a pack of monkeys rip away the ‘banana belt’ that serves as her only clothing.”

 The dancer in the film depicts popular 1920s France singer and dancer Josephine Baker. Baker worked for the French Resistance during World War II and became a civil rights activists in the 1950s.

Parents at DeKalb School of the Arts said their children were shown an inappropriate video that had elements of racism and sexism.

Parents at DeKalb School of the Arts said their children were shown an inappropriate video that had elements of racism and sexism.

 Lawson said the movie clip was racist and sexist and not appropriate for class.

 Dickson apologized to Lawson in an email, stating it was a “lapse in diligence” on his part.

 “I just wanted to let you know that this was certainly not part of the lesson plan. We were still holding students in class and I allowed them to request French music, which I displayed on the Promethean Board. I had seen the movie years ago and know it is considered a ‘classic,’ but I had forgotten about this aspect of it. I did stop the video before it was finished and will definitely not show it again,” Dickson wrote.

 Susan McCauley, principal at DeKalb School of the Arts, said Dickson also apologized to his class and the school will “work on a plan to move forward, and create opportunities for growth for our staff.”

 Valerie Britt, whose daughter also attends DSA, said the school needs to do more.

 “I watched it quite a few times and I kept thinking ‘did I really just see that?’ [The clip] exploited so many stereotypes. It’s a mockery and it’s designed to be a mockery. I know people are going to think this is an issue of racial stereotypes, but I was appalled by the content from the very first moment. I thought, ‘what does this have to do with anything educational?’”

 Lawson and Britt said they would like the school to provide DSA faculty and staff with development training in diversity and inclusion, contact all parents with students in the class and inform them of the circumstances and coordinate with a school counselor to address the matter.

 “In this case, this school has not been able to find the tools to address this. The [superintendent] said this is a personnel matter. I can appreciate that, but it’s also a matter of student harm and that’s where the challenge lies and there isn’t an understanding,” Lawson said.

 The DeKalb County School District issued a statement regarding the video stating, “The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) regrets that students at the DeKalb School of the Arts were exposed to the nudity and racist caricatures contained in the video. Those images have absolutely no place in our classrooms, and the decision to show the video is totally outside of the district’s policies, expectations and standards. An investigation was conducted, and the personnel responsible for the showing have been addressed through personnel matters. Moving forward, DCSD will partner with community agencies to provide support and work to ensure that incidents like this do not happen in the future.”




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