Winnetka Teachers Won’t Be Fired for Showing Graphic HBO Film ‘The Middle Passage’

Winnetka School District 36 officials released a statement Tuesday reporting that no employees would be fired as a result of investigation of a graphic film shown to fourth-graders at Greeley School.

Letter to Community from The Winnetka Public Schools District 36 ...
Greeley School Video Review Completed

The administration completed its review of the showing of the video titled “The Middle Passage” to the fourth grade classes at Greeley School. We wish to assure everyone that we gave this matter our complete and prompt attention and we reported our findings to the School Board.

As it was said early on, we agree with concerns brought forward by a number of parents regarding this video. Although the video tells a very important part of our history, we believe it is too graphic and mature to be appropriate for most fourth grade students and should not be used as part of our District’s curriculum. As a consequence, we are implementing procedures to ensure that in the future, all supplementary curriculum materials are approved by administration before they are presented to students. The School Board will begin to address the policy implications of this incident at its next regular meeting on March 22, 2011.

We also personally addressed the showing of this video with certain staff members at Greeley School. Like most employers, the District treats personnel matters in a confidential manner and will continue to do so. However, we can assure the public that the staff members involved in this incident were treated fairly and appropriately. No employees were or will be fired as a result of this incident.

It is our hope that the community and its schools can move beyond this incident and refocus on our central learning goals.

Dr. Kenneth Cull
Dr. Mark Friedman
Co-Superintendents
winnetka36.org

The film ‘The Middle Passage’ is about slave trade traveling The Middle Passage, which was an area of triangular trade on the Atlantic Ocean bordered by West Africa, Eastern South America, the Southeast region of what is today the United States, the Caribbean and Western Europe. Millions of people from Africa were taken to the New World, as part of the Atlantic slave trade. Ships departed Europe for African markets with manufactured goods, which were traded for purchased or kidnapped Africans, who were transported across the Atlantic as slaves; the slaves were then sold or traded for raw materials in the Americas.

The HBO film “The Middle Passage,” specifically depicts nudity, rape and suicide aboard a slave ship. The narrative is also reported to be difficult to understand, even at the middle school level.

School officials have already recommended a new policy measures — videos that are not G-rated for General Audiences must be screened by a school’s principal and a small group of teachers. The Middle Passage (2002) according to Amazon.com is NR — Not Rated.

The following ratings listing as a whole have existed since 1990 from the Motion Picture Association of America’s film-rating system (MPAA).

G- General Audiences
All ages admitted
(1968-present)

PG- Parental Guidance Suggested
Some material may not be suitable for children
(1972-present)

PG-13- Parents Strongly Cautioned
Some material may be not be appropriate for children under 13
(1984-present)

R- Restricted
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
(1968-present)

NC-17- No One 17 and under admitted
(1990–present)

NR (Not Rated) or Unrated
If a film is not submitted for rating, the label NR (Not Rated) or Unrated is used. However, this is not an official MPAA classification. Films not yet rated by the MPAA, but that are expected to be submitted for rating, are often advertised with the notice “This Film is Not Yet Rated”.