Teacher Alan Barron, a 36-year veteran of Michigan’s public school system, was suspended indefinitely for his decision to show a video of whites depicting African-Americans in blackface during a unit he was teaching on Jim Crow segregation laws.
The move was deemed “offensive and racist” by a school administrator where Barron, a white man, teaches, even though it is clearly relevant to the material he was covering.
(All reports have indicated that no parents and students were offended by the showing.)
As a result, most in the community are outraged. In a report from USA Today, one parent, Adrienne Aaron, whose husband is African-American, said her daughter was not offended by the material and that it needed to be discussed.
“She [Aaron’s daughter] was more offended that they stopped the video,” Aaron said. “It had nothing to do with racism. History is history. We need to educate our kids to see how far we’ve come in America. How is that racism?”
Delving deeper into the suspension of Alan Barron, The Monroe News reported that district officials met this week with Barron and “decided not to take action until further investigation is completed.”
(His suspension is being called a “paid administrative leave,” the district added, though he will not be able to attend any school events or functions in the interim.)
“Representatives with the Michigan Education Association and the Monroe City Education Association, including the president of the union, did not return Monroe News calls,” wrote reporter Ray Kisonas. “Neither Mr. Barron nor his attorney, C. J. Horkey, chose to comment because the situation has not been settled.”
Parents and students, however, are rallying to Barron’s side, with one student making and distributing T-Shirts in support of the 59-year-old teacher.
“Mr. Barron is one of the… great teachers we have in Monroe Public Schools,” a parent wrote in an open letter distributed through Facebook. “He has changed many children’s lives over the course of his career. If Mr. Barron felt that he was teaching something that was offensive, he would most definitely not have done it.”
Aaron agrees. “It’s so sad this has happened to him,” she said. “He’s one of the best teachers we’ve had. We can’t believe that this is happening.”
While the idea of Hollywood shutting out black actors in favor of white ones in blackface is clearly offensive — that’s why it’s no longer being done — do you think the school administrator went overboard since blackface acts were a part of history, or was the decision of Alan Barron an unnecessary element for teaching the unit?
Share your thoughts in our comments section.