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Brookline Parents Outraged By Controversial History Textbook

BROOKLINE (CBS) -- Some parents of fifth-graders at Brookline Public Schools are outraged over a page in their children's US social studies textbook that suggests some slave owners living during the 17th-century America were compassionate toward their slaves.

The portion of the book in question is only two pages, but parents say it's two pages too many.


The passage in question states, "slaves were treated well or cruelly depending on their owners."

It goes on:

"Some planters took pride in being fair and kind to their slaves," the text, published by Harcourt, states.

"I think the very idea that we are putting a good face on one person owning another person is of itself, cruel," Arthur Wellington Conquest, a concerned parent, told told WBZ-TV's Christina Hager.

Added Brooks Ames, another upset parent: "This is what they taught in Reconstruction, after Reconstruction. This is a way of justifying racism."

Ames and his wife, Mariela, first brought their complaint to school officials at the end of last year and have had two meetings since, the last with deputy superintendent Jennifer Fischer-Mueller. She, too, agreed with them.

"The way this book portrayed slavery was absolutely downplaying of the lives of enslaved people. Then we also came to find out that there were aspects of this chapter that were inaccurate -- factually inaccurate," she told WBZ.

"This particular section of the Harcourt text does not describe the institution of slavery… either accurately or empathetically," Geoffrey Tegnell, Brookline Social Studies Coordinator, wrote in a letter to school administrators in October.

Fischer-Mueller eventually agreed not to have that excerpt of the book available for lessons, but told parents and staff the book would remain in the schools -- until she spoke with WBZ on Thursday.

"It will be removed from the classrooms because we will no longer be using it," she told WBZ. "We can do that in the next month or two."

A move finally happening more than 10 years later.

"I'm appalled that my children had to read this information, this book, this history," said parent Cruz Sanabria.

The parents sounded off at a school board meeting Thursday night.

"I am very disappointed that it took Channel 4 news to come in and get some action," Scot Huggins said at the meeting.

"I don't appreciate that in order to get the book removed, or a promise to get the book removed, we had to go to the media," Brooks Ames said.

School officials declined to talk on camera to WBZ after the meeting. WBZ's Julie Loncich asked Fischer-Mueller if the book would be out of classrooms by January, to which she responded, "We'll see."

WBZ-TV's Christina Hager and Julie Loncich contributed to this report.


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