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Colorado Springs middle school removes lesson with “N-word” spelled out 32 times

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A Colorado Springs middle school has removed a controversial lesson plan presented to 8th-grade students in English class with a racial slur spelled out more than two dozen times.

Atlas Preparatory School removed the lesson after a mother contacted our KRDO13 Investigates team, and we started asking questions.

"I was in disbelief."

"I couldn't believe what I was reading. It was very disturbing," said mother Jasmine Roberson. "I can't have my children here because I don't feel that they're safe."

Atlas Preparatory Charter School tells KRDO13 Investigates that the lesson was taught to prepare the students about the N-word before reading the novel To Kill A Mockingbird, which includes the racial slur numerous times.

Jasmine Roberson

Roberson saw the lesson packet last week when a student brought it to her house. The next day, she went to the school to confront administrators about the lesson.

The mother says the school told her it was meant to be a "curriculum activity" to help the students "understand" the word.

She ultimately decided to pull her three children from the school.

"They were wrong for giving them that package. They were wrong for having that as an activity," Roberson said. "As a parent, it's not safe for them to be there. So I took my babies out."

The Lesson

The lesson includes excerpts from essays by Black authors Ta-Nehisi Coates, Lincoln Anthony Blades and Kevin Cato. The essays are about the word's history, context, and current-day use.

Roberson believes the lesson plan "teaches the kids to be ignorant," and as a Black woman, she is struggling to explain to her children why the word was written and spelled out 32 times in the worksheets.

"I'm still kind of shook up, but to get the point across that they shouldn't do this, whatever activities that that these principals and things have at the school should be to keep kids safe and educate them in the right way, not with nonsense," Roberson said.

"They are advertising kids to do it. And they're adults as well," Roberson said.

The school's director told KRDO13 Investigates that neither the teacher nor the students read the word aloud in class, and the word was "only written in the lesson as a direct quote from the essay being cited and only appeared in written text."

The school administration at Atlas Preparatory School declined an on-camera interview but provided a statement.

"As a school, we acknowledge that this lesson was taught to assist our students in reading the novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, where the word appears frequently throughout the book. Direct quotes from various authors were used to demonstrate the historical use of the word, support students to understand the word and for them to learn about the harmful impact it has had. We take our students' and families' concerns seriously and address them on an individual basis. Our team met with the family to apologize, explain the context and offer alternative books for reading. We have chosen to remove the lesson and are engaging in a review process to ensure that this does not occur again in the future."

Brittney Stroh, Atlas Preparatory School's Executive Director

"We're not going to print it. We're not going to review it. We're not going to study it. We're not going to analyze it to look at it," Rocky Mountain NAACP President Portia Prescott said.

Prescott says reiterating the word, even in an educational setting, should be avoided at all costs.

Now, Roberson is left searching for a new school where she feels her kids will be safe.

"I fear for my children growing up in Colorado Springs," she said. "I fear for their safety. I fear because the color of their skin, and I fear how ignorant people can be."

KRDO13 Investigates contacted The Colorado Department of Education for an interview and comment and has not yet heard back.

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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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