The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association on Friday sent a complaint to Gov. Tim Walz about a book that was used for a 4th-grade assignment in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district.
The book, titled "Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice," follows two families – one white, one black – as they discuss the police shooting of a Black man in their community.
According to its synopsis "aims to answer children's questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives."
But the MPPOA, which represents 10,500 police officers in Minnesota, argues that it contains language that "encourages children to fear police officers as unfair, violent, and racist," and called on the state to no longer recommend it for elementary school teaching.
"Language in this book leaves the impression unchecked that police officers routinely pull over, arrest, and kill black people without consequences," the letter from MPPOA executive director Brian Peters reads.
"It says cops are 'mean to black people,' or 'shot them because they are black,' or police officers 'stick up for each other' to help police officers get away with doing bad things," it continues.
The best-selling book is recommended for children aged 4-8, and has been praised for helping young children discuss racism.
State says context of entire book important
In response to the complaint, the Minnesota Departments of Education and Health issued a joint statement saying: "The book in question won multiple awards and was authored by psychologists seeking to help children process a difficult set of issues.
"It presents several complete conversations, as voiced by different characters, that many kids have likely heard in different parts of their lives. Some people will find characters’ perspectives resonate with them, while others may find some of the perspectives challenging, especially when taken out of the complete context of the full conversations depicted.
“For example, in the same section of dialogue cited as a concern by MPPOA there is a statement that ‘there are many cops, black and white, who make good choices.’ We share that view, and recognize that most who work in law enforcement have good intentions and are working hard to serve their community.”
Peters did say in his letter that there are "worthy discussions" to be had in Minnesota surrounding race and equity and how children can be involved in that process, and added: "We absolutely support making stronger community connections and bring people together."
"But divisive language that leaves children with the false impression police officers are out to hurt people based on the color of their skin is defamatory, wrong, and harms genuine public safety efforts," he added.