Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Says Alabama's School System Demonstrates Lack of Commitment to Diversity

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Says Alabama’s School System Demonstrates Lack of Commitment to Diversity

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute called the Alabama school system’s response to a Jewish student’s complaints that a teacher was forcing classmates to sing the Nazi salute “confusing” and showed a lack of desire for diversity.

While Mountain Brooks School issued a statement saying it “deeply apologizes for the pain” caused by the lesson, which “lacked responsiveness”, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute questioned the actions taken by the system.

In a story first published by the Birmingham-based newspaper Southern Jewish Life, a Jewish student said he was shocked last month when a history teacher at Mountain Brook High School forced classmates to stand up and give the Nazi salute during a lesson on the symbols of the path. . change. The teacher is not installed.

Student Ephraim Titell said he was reprimanded by school authorities and told to apologize to the teacher after he shared videos and photos of the incident on social media. Titell said he refused.

Titell, the only Jewish student in 11th grade history class, and several of his classmates refused to stand up. “I was frustrated, not understanding what was going on. Just shocked,” Tytell told CBS 42.

The school system, which is right outside of Birmingham and includes four elementary schools, a junior high school and a high school, has previously been criticized by groups and civil rights activists after it abandoned the anti-bias and diversity program developed by organization that fights anti-Semitism. after several anti-Semitic events.

“It is in this light that we find the recent incident involving the Nazi salute displayed by students in the Mountain Brook class particularly confusing as it shows a clear lack of preparedness on the part of administrators to discuss, teach and guide in this area. ,” the city’s educational institution said in a statement released Friday.

Mountain Brooks Schools has been accused of showing

Mountain Brooks Schools has been accused of showing “a clear lack of preparedness on the part of administrators to discuss, teach and guide” after an unnamed teacher (pictured) instructed students to stand up and give the Nazi salute during a history class.

Mountain Brooks Schools has previously come under fire from civil rights groups and activists after abandoning an anti-bias and diversity program developed by an organization that fights anti-Semitism following several anti-Semitic events.  In the photo: a frame from the video.

Mountain Brooks Schools has previously come under fire from civil rights groups and activists after abandoning an anti-bias and diversity program developed by an organization that fights anti-Semitism following several anti-Semitic events. In the photo: a frame from the video.

Ephraim Titell, the only Jewish student in History 11th grade, (pictured) was reprimanded by the school after he shared a video of an inappropriate assignment.

Ephraim Titell, the only Jewish student in History 11th grade, (pictured) was reprimanded by the school after he shared a video of an inappropriate assignment.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (pictured) said the schools'

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (pictured) said the schools’ “confusing” reaction to the Nazi salute was indicative of a lack of commitment to diversity.

“They told me I was making Mountain Brook look bad for uploading and sharing the video and asked me to apologize to my teacher, but I refused,” he said.

“The next day, he made our class, and only our class, hung up our phones and moved me from the back of the class right next to him.”

The purpose of the lesson was to show how the symbols change, demonstrating that something very similar to what is now commonly known as the Nazi salute was used before World War II to salute the US flag.

The “Bellamy salute” was abandoned in 1942 due to a right hand gesture over the heart following the entry of the United States into World War II.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Mountain Brooks’ population is 97% white and has a median household income of $152,355, making it the state’s wealthiest suburb.

The Mountain Brooks school system was previously one of the top three most segregated school systems in the nation, according to the non-profit organization EdBuild.

On Tuesday, the school system released a statement saying the videos and photos posted online “do not reflect the lesson” and that no one was trying to teach students how to do the Nazi salute.

As the backlash continued, the system issued a more conciliatory statement Thursday, saying in part: “There are better ways to teach this subject without recreating painful, emotional responses to the brutalities of history.”

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Says Alabama's School System Demonstrates Lack of Commitment to Diversity

“In order to improve our teaching strategies, we will continue to work with the Alabama Holocaust Education Center to enhance the training of our teachers on anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and its symbols,” the statement said.

The school system has said it “absolutely and unequivocally” opposes anti-Semitism.

The Jewish Federation of Birmingham said the district’s subsequent announcement was “a direct result” of conversations with school system leaders.

School officials “fully recognize and understand the insensitivity of classroom teaching that day and the lack of a safe place for students to learn,” the Jewish organization said.

William Galloway, a spokesman for Mountain Brooks Schools, said the system’s policy forbids commenting on whether a teacher remains in the classroom.

“Realizing the sensitive nature of this subject, Mountain Brook Schools has addressed the instructional strategy used by the teacher and does not condone modeling this greeting when an image or video can accurately convey the same message,” the school system said in a statement.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Mountain Brooks' population is 97% white and has a median household income of $152,355, making it the state's wealthiest suburb.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Mountain Brooks’ population is 97% white and has a median household income of $152,355, making it the state’s wealthiest suburb.

Mountain Brook Listens, a group that works to promote diversity in an almost all-white city of 22,000, issued a statement saying the incident showed the need for more resources, education and training to understand hidden biases, develop empathy and take action. with great compassion.

“And our entire community, including our school system, must create an environment where people feel safe to report behavior that bothers them, and certainly not create an environment that cultivates any kind of “fear of retribution” , the message says.

Last year, the Mountain Brook school system responded to community complaints about the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) diversity program by ditching classes. Schools began using this material after anti-Semitic events, including a video of a student with a swastika painted on his body.

Opponents argued that the lessons focused too much on race and gender and criticized the ADL as being too politicized.

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