By: Bryan Boggiano
The Fraternal Order of Police and the Coral Springs Police Chief speaks out about a book that “inaccurately portrays police” that was introduced as supplementary fiction in at least two fifth-grade classrooms.
The controversy centers around the young adult novel Ghost Boys, which tells the story of Jerome, a 12-year-old black boy shot and killed by a white police officer in Chicago after he mistakes Jerome’s toy gun for a real one.
Jerome becomes a ghost and communicates with the ghost of Emmett Till and the cop’s daughter, Sarah. Till tells Jerome about the history of racism and how it contributed to his murder. Jerome tells Sarah that her father lied about the shooting.
After objections from the FOP, Broward County Public Schools pulled Ghost Boys from the unnamed school, claiming they did not vet it properly; however, not before attracting national attention on CNN and The Washington Post.
In an open letter, FOP director Paul Kempinski labeled Ghost Boys as propaganda, alleging that it pushes stereotypes of police officers being racist murderers, fails to include other perspectives besides Jerome’s, and uses misleading statistics.
“This book convinces its readers, the children of our community, that police officer regularly lie as they routinely murder children while painting police officers as racist,” he wrote. “While I applaud Broward Schools for tackling the tough topic of social justice, using a book filled with…a dangerous message…[is] not good for our children, our community or our future.”
Police Chief Clyde Parry voiced similar sentiments, claiming Ghost Boys dangerously and inaccurately portrays police. He also claimed that a police-involved shooting and Emmett Till’s lynching are not comparable.
“The reality is, once you tell me that the people who serve my department are no better than the racist pigs that killed Emmett Till, you’ve lost your argument, and you’ve lost your mind,” he said.
Chief Parry mentioned the book in a recent Coral Springs Talk update, where he talked about the importance of community outreach and said it could teach young children not to trust the police.
He says the book would be better suited for high schoolers, who could have a class discussion. His concern is that if younger students read it without context, they could lose respect for the police officers who do their jobs and protect everybody in the community.
Still, Parry welcomes tough conversations on policing, believes in police department transparency and accountability, and believes schools and parents should teach youth to treat others with respect, regardless of their differences.
In an open letter, The National Coalition Against Censorship condemned Broward County Public Schools for singling the book out and removing it due to objections from law enforcement. The NCAC wrote that the district should have informed the parents that books are not meant to indoctrinate students.
On her website, author Jewell Parker Rhodes writes that it is essential to teach kids about history with today’s social issues. Rhodes keeps in mind how racism affects her children and grandchildren.
“Ghost Boys is meant to remind youth that they, too, can ‘be the change’ and continue advocating against racism and racial bias,” she wrote on her website.
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