A teacher in Dallas has sparked a public outcry from parents and the community at large after it was revealed he assigned freshmen students a project in which they were made to watch the Derek Chauvin trial and act as mock jurors.
Parents at Cedar Hill High School in suburban Dallas are furious that their children were mandated to watch the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer, who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter stemming from the death of George Floyd.
Local ABC affiliate WFAA reports that on Friday, a Cedar Hill parent sent a formal letter to the teacher, expressing their discomfort with their children taking part in the project. The assignment meant students would be subjected to having portions of the high-profile trial – including the incredibly graphic video of Chauvin’s kneeling on Floyd’s neck – screened during class.
“It is unfathomable to me that you felt it appropriate to force my child to watch George Floyd’s murder on television in your classroom, and then move on with his day as if nothing had happened,” the letter further stated.
Parents also took issue with the fact that initially students were instructed to not discuss what they witnessed during the trial with family for six weeks.
“They may not text discuss what they hear with friends, siblings, or relatives – not even the family dog,” the memo stated.
It wasn’t until the educator received complaints and inquiries about the assignment that a breakdown was provided that revealed the students were being tasked with playing the role of jurors.
“This murder seen by millions around the globe was triggering and traumatizing for adults. Yet, you left students to handle their own emotions and mental health as they left your class, without proper and professional support,” the letter continued.
In response to the objections, school principal, Jason Miller, sent a note to parents, conceding, “I don’t feel that viewing and discussing this case in school is age-appropriate for scholars.”
The Cedar Hill Independent School District also issued a statement Friday afternoon clarifying, “The assignment was not approved by campus or district administrators. The matter has been addressed with the teacher, and the assignment was removed.”
As we previously reported, the Chauvin trial is underway nearly one year after the death of George Floyd at the hands of the former Minneapolis police officer.
In his opening statement, Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson said the jury will learn about the authorized use-of-force policies that were in place at the time of Floyd’s death. “You will learn,” said Nelson, “that Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over the course of his 19-year career.”
Chauvin is facing several possible outcomes. He could be found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, or manslaughter. A fourth outcome? He could also be acquitted.
“The use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing,” Nelson added.
Nelson made it clear early on that he intended to pursue an argument that Floyd’s death was due to a combination of drug intoxication, heart disease, and high blood pressure. He contended that Floyd suffered a fatal heart attack as adrenaline coursed through his system during the struggle with the four officers, including Chauvin.
He also said that an autopsy of Floyd’s body showed “no telltale signs” of asphyxiation from Chauvin’s knee.
However, Hennepin County medical examiner Andrew Baker ruled Floyd’s death a homicide, saying his cause of death was “cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression.”