Letter sent to some parents causing controversy about racial stereotypes

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Letters that are being distributed to families of students across the state of Tennessee are causing controversy about spreading negative racial stereotypes.

The letter has potentially good intentions, as it is written to inform parents that the school their child attends has been targeted to receive additional funds because a historically under-served group students is in the lowest 5% for that group.

Some elected officials think the Department of Education is shaming groups based on racial stereotypes.

“What happens to that child that does not fit into that group?” State Rep. Antonio Parkinson said. “What happens to that child when you say, okay the reason that our school needs intervention is because the black kids are not performing well. But what about the black kid that is performing well?”

The Department of Education said each school was provided a four-page template letter with key points to hit when they address parents. They said some schools didn’t follow the guidelines properly, but the template itself says the students can be grouped by race or ethnicity.

The first page of a template letter sent to parents by the Tennessee DOE.
The second page of a template letter sent to parents by the Tennessee DOE.

“If the template went out without instruction then they’re still responsible,” Parkingson said. “But I also say that there should have been some judgment used on behalf of the schools that sent the information out the way that it went out.”

Moving forward, the Department of Education said it’s determined to improve the communication between schools and families.

Parkinson just wants to make sure every student group is given a positive model to aspire toward.

“It’s vitally important, and honestly, it can make or break success for those children in later years,” Parkinson said.

The Department of Education said they are legally required to send that letter every fall, but it will be re-written by next year.

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