Olathe parent objects to second-grade son’s civil rights homework

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OLATHE, Kan. -- A lesson about civil rights leading up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day has upset some Olathe parents. A worksheet used by a second grade teacher is causing some parents to question if their children are being taught too much, too soon.

The worksheet in question was sent home with second graders from Heritage Elementary School, which a parent spotted while checking their child’s homework. District officials say it is appropriate, some parents say it is not.

"Most of the time it's just bad spelling, English. This one caught my eye. I pulled it out and showed my wife and just kinda were incredulous with it. We were speechless,” said parent Allen Clayton.

While going through his son’s homework, Clayton saw a worksheet showing an old photo of two water fountains, one with a sign above it reading "white" the other "colored". The question asked to his son's second grade class was: “Which one of these water fountains would you rather use? Why?"

"He wrote ‘white because I am white,’ so I mean....” Clayton said.

"I think used in context it fosters great discussion. It made it real for students, it made them feel, wow, this is hard, how would I chose?” said Olathe School District Assistant Superintendent Erin Dugan.

Dugan says the worksheet is not a part of the regular curriculum, but an optional resource from the National Geographic Society used by the Heritage Elementary teacher as part of her lesson about Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Who was he, what impact did he have, what was his role was in stopping many of the laws stopping segregation? And particularly, helping students at the second grade level understand fairness and equity and the choices folks during this time period were faced with,” she said.

FOX 4’s Shannon O’Brien asked Clayton if he felt it was an appropriate lesson plan.

"No, no way. Maybe in the 1930's, but not now," he said.

Clayton says he does not object to the lesson, but in making seven and eight year olds make a choice like this one.