School district scraps $1.2M contract with firm over offensive books

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A curriculum that sparked controversy for its depictions of non-white people in books for schoolchildren has been dropped by Minneapolis Public Schools.

MPR News reports the school board voted Tuesday to terminate its $1.2 million contract with Utah-based Reading Horizons for a literacy curriculum, following uproar among parents about the racial stereotypes portrayed in some of its books.

The offending material, comprising of a literary series called "Little Books," never made it to classrooms and was sent back to Reading Horizons who said they would be revised.

The books contained characters including "Lazy Lucy," a young black girl who wouldn't clean her hut, and "Nieko, the Hunting Girl," an American Indian who hunts a wooly mammoth with her father.

But parents were unhappy with the district's plans to continue the contract with Reading Horizons, which was finally addressed at Tuesday's board meeting.

"I know that many of you are frustrated and rightfully distrust us," board chair Jenny Arenson said, according to MPR. "Tonight, we're going to repair those errors and we're going to create a plan to prevent future harm."

The Star Tribune reports the boardroom was filled with parents, some of whom were "waving blue hankies, raising signs," with many having lined up to "voice their outrage."

Their concerns were heard by Superintendent Michael Goar, who admitted mistakes had been made in not recognizing the offensive material sooner, and told the board: "I'm deeply sorry you're in this predicament. I deeply apologize that you have to do my job."

According to the Southwest Journal, the school board could end up taking a $1.2 million hit because by canceling the contract, it "leaves it with little leverage to negotiate" for a full or partial refund.

The board also has to find another literacy curriculum, having initially hoped the deal with Reading Horizons would have improved elementary reading skills and closed the achievement gap between white students and students of color.

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