State Watch

Missouri state rep wants official to step down after ‘This is America’ played in classroom

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A Republican state lawmaker in Missouri is calling for a school superintendent to resign over what he called “highly inappropriate subject matter” in a high school course that included the music video for “This is America” by Childish Gambino.

State Rep. Chuck Basye (R) on Monday called for Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Brian Yearwood to step down, claiming the district was not properly managing the concerns of parents, the legislator said in a news release published by KOMU 8 News, a local NBC affiliate.

“Parents and students deserve far better than what they’re seeing at Hickman and in the Columbia Public Schools system, which seem to have no interest in ensuring appropriate material is taught in the classroom,” Basye said in a statement.

Specifically, he cited gun violence, murder and drug use referenced in the song “This is America,” which was included in an assignment for an AP U.S. Studies class at Hickman High School.

Basye was also critical of an assignment that involved material by Nikole Hannah-Jones, one of the authors of “The 1619 Project,” saying its inclusion contradicts Yearwood’s public statement on a Columbia radio show in August that “The 1619 Project” would not be implemented in the school system.

“The 1619 Project” is a project by The New York Times magazine that “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative,” according to the newspaper’s website

“Given the fact that Dr. Yearwood is either unaware of the subject matter being taught in his schools or is blatantly lying, it’s clear he’s not fit to carry on as superintendent. Immediate change is needed to improve the educational environment so that it is appropriate for young people,” Basye said in Monday’s statement.

Columbia Public Schools Chief Communications Officer Michelle Baumstark said in an email to The Hill that Basye’s news release was not sent to the district.

“Representative Basye has never met Dr. Yearwood, nor has he attempted to contact or interact with him beyond submitting records requests and complaints to the district,” Baumstark said in the email.

She added that the district had extended an “open invitation” for Basye to meet with Yearwood and said the district “will remain focused on doing our best every day to support our scholars and their future success.” 

The Hill has reached out to Basye for comment.

Republicans in other states have also criticized “The 1619 Project.” In Texas, the GOP-controlled Senate passed a bill in July that would prohibit schools from requiring “an understanding” of the New York Times’s 1619 Project and said teachers “may not be compelled to discuss a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.”

Tags Columbia Missouri state representative The 1619 Project

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