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Dad Sues Over N-Word References, ‘Outrageous Statements’ in Slavery Book

Posted Nov 11, 2010 8:49 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Michigan man claims in a lawsuit that a slavery book used in his fifth-grade daughter’s classroom violated the state’s civil rights act.

The suit filed by Jamey Petree on behalf of his daughter, Jala, says the book used the N-word and compared African-Americans’ skin color to “Satan’s thoughts,” the Macomb Daily reports. The suit maintains the “outrageous statements” in the book, From Slave Ship to Freedom Road, caused emotional distress for the African-American student. WXYZ.com, the Detroit Free Press and the Associated Press also have stories.

The book, authored by Julius Lester, is described by education publisher Scholastic as "An innovative picture book for older children," that "addresses the history of slavery, while demanding the attention and interaction of readers of all races." The Scholastic site posts a recommended reading age of 10-15.

Jala Petree’s fifth-grade teacher read portions of the award-winning book aloud to prepare students for Black History Month, and the book had been approved by the principal, the school district says. It was among the supplemental materials issued by the textbook company. After the reading, the teacher discussed the horrors of slavery.

Last updated at 8:41 a.m. to add more detail about the book.

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