The Broward County Public Schools board has stopped a children’s book from being used in classes, after the head of the local police union wrote an open letter to the district accusing the book of being anti-police “propaganda.” According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the book was used in one fifth-grade class at an elementary school in Coral Springs; now, assignments and readings related to the book have been canceled.
The book in question, Jewell Parker Rhodes’s Walter Award-winning Ghost Boys, is told in the voice of twelve-year-old Jerome, who is fatally shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real one; as a ghost, he befriends the ghost of Emmett Till, who helps him contextualize his own death, and also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer who ended his life. Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that rates content based on children’s development, scored Ghost Boys as appropriate for children ten years of age and older—the age of fifth graders.
The district told the Sun-Sentinel that teachers assigning Ghost Boys didn’t follow the classroom protocol of informing parents, so parents could opt their children out of the assignment. Said school board member Lori Alhadeff to the Sun-Sentinel, “The timing of whether to implement this subject matter must ultimately be a decision by the parents of each student. I do not feel Ghost Boys is appropriate for fifth-graders.”
The removal of Ghost Boys comes shortly after Paul Kempinski, local Fraternal Order of Police director, wrote an open letter to school board members and parents on Thursday, urging Broward County Public Schools to remove Ghost Boys from the curriculum. Said Kempinski, “[Ghost Boys] convinces . . . the children of our community . . . that police officers regularly lie as they routinely murder children, while painting police officers as racists.”
Kempinski was most recently in the news for surviving a shooting at the scene of an attempted robbery and hostage situation. The man who shot him received 14 life sentences on his 26th birthday.