The Dallas Independent School District (DISD) is promising an investigation after an area high school teacher reportedly asked students to write about 17-year-old Kenosha, Wisconsin shooter Kyle Rittenhouse in an assignment titled "Hero for the Modern Age."
The assignment, posted in Google Classroom and later circulated on Twitter, tasked students with writing a brief biography of six different listed people — including Rittenhouse — and choosing one as the subject of an essay that "demonstrates best your concept of a hero." The assignment list also included one of Rittenhouse's victims, Joseph Rosenbaum, as well as Malcolm X and Mahatma Gandhi — both of whose names were misspelled.
Kristian Hernandez, whose younger brother received the assignment, was one of many people disturbed and outraged by it. "Black lives are not up for debate,” she told the local NBC News affiliate. “The value of Black lives are not up for debate and that’s what it felt like this was sort of getting at - by way of the names that were included." Hernandez also said she complained to the school's principal after she saw the assignment.
In a statement to NBCDFW, the school district wrote:
An unapproved assignment posted in Google Classroom yesterday has been brought to our attention. Understandably, this caused some concern for the impacted students, and we apologize. Campus administration immediately removed the unapproved content and students are not required to complete that assignment. Due to personnel policies, we are not able to comment further, however, the appropriate steps are being followed pending investigation.
According to NBC, the teacher who assigned the essay has taught with the district for three years. While it's unclear exactly why the teacher included Rittenhouse, the Illinois teen — who now stands charged with two counts of murder — has become something of a folk hero, celebrated by Fox News pundits and right wing lawmakers alike, after he shot and killed two protesters during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in late August. Outside of those circles, though, it seems he's largely seen for what he is: A person accused of murdering two people.
"Racial equity is a top priority in Dallas ISD," the district continued in its statement. "We remain committed to providing a robust teaching environment where all students can learn. It is important that we continue to be culturally sensitive to our diverse populations and provide a space of respect and value."