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PPS parents outraged after ‘racist’ question appears in Kindergarten social studies lesson

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PEORIA (WEEK) - More and more students are learning online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But some in Peoria are asking "Where does the content come from?" after the mother of a PPS Kindergartner posted her child's lesson on Facebook Wednesday.

This was a question posed to a kindergarten student during Wednesday's remote learning social studies lesson. The question reads "What is a family?" With two options for answers, both pictures.

Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said she reached out the the company who produces the content, Acellus, and they quickly took it down. She did not do an interview but gave this statement regarding the lesson:

"What was presented in that lesson was totally out of touch.
My own family would not have been selected because it was just my mom and us kids growing up. There are many make-ups to families -- one mom, one dad, two moms, two dads, grandparents, foster parents. The good news is that, as soon as this was brought to our attention, we contacted the vendor's coursework development team, and in five minutes they responded and were able to adjust it. Out of the 985,000 lessons being offered by that vendor, any lesson tagged as racist or sexist are reviewed and revised within one business day. We appreciate the feedback from our families."

School Board Member Daniel Walther said Wednesday the decision to go with Acellus was contested to begin with, and after seeing this learning material, he believes his suspicions were warranted. "This isn't a little glitch, this is a big glitch. That's certainly not my feeling of how you define a family. It perpetuates a racial discrimination thing," he said.

Walther explained that Acellus was chosen after being chosen by several administrators including Dr. Sandra Wilson, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum. Walther added that the cost for the service is $100/student for around 2000 students in the district utilizing it.

"It's not the teachers fault. If this thing goes on, this is Acellus' fault. And I put this back on a couple administrators that should've known it was a problem," said Walther.

Walther said this misstep in judgment may have repercussions. "If there's an escape clause to get out of the contract I want to look at it," he said. Walther explained Acellus is a privately owned company contracted by school districts to provide pre-made online learning lessons.

To his knowledge, they are not accredited by the State of Illinois Board of Education.

As for filtering content before it makes it to a students' screen, he said that just doesn't exist.

Walther said this issue will be addressed during the next board meeting saying, "And frankly I think the two administrators who recommended it had better be able to give us some good explanations."

PPS Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat released this statement:

"What was presented in that lesson was totally out of touch. My own family would not have been selected because it was just my mom and us kids growing up. There are many make-ups to families -- one mom, one dad, two moms, two dads, grandparents, foster parents. The good news is that, as soon as this was brought to our attention, we contacted the vendor's coursework development team, and in five minutes they responded and were able to adjust it. Out of the 985,000 lessons being offered by that vendor, any lesson tagged as racist or sexist are reviewed and revised within one business day. We appreciate the feedback from our families."

Kyle Beachy

Kyle Beachy is a Multimedia Journalist for 25 News and Heart of Illinois. Born and raised in Kokomo, Indiana, he attended Indiana Wesleyan University where he studied Education and played baseball. He comes to us from Columbus, Ohio where he received a Master’s Degree from The Ohio State University.

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