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A parent is concerned over a comment made by one school administrator regarding Black History Curriculum

Orton Academy
Posted at 8:05 PM, Feb 20, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-22 18:14:49-05

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A Colorado Springs parent is concerned with the words a charter school administrator used to describe slavery. In an email, a school administrator at Orton Academy, used the words "involuntary immigration" when discussing a portion of their Black History Month curriculum.

Laura and Tim Hoffman have lived in Colorado Springs for nearly 10 years.

“So we have three kids, all of our kids were born in Ethiopia,” Tim Hoffman said.

Laura and Tim Hoffman's son Zachariah is a sixth grader at Orton Academy in Colorado Springs. Orton Academy is a school that focuses on students with dyslexia.

“A couple weeks ago, I reached out to Orton Academy just to check in with them and see how they plan to celebrate Black History Month since it is such an important month,” Laura Hoffman said.

Laura said after a few days she received an email back from the assistant principal. She provided News5 with the email exchange that shows the assistant principal wrote the following:

Thank you for reaching out and inquiring about our inclusion of African American history during the month of February. Mrs. Fuss is addressing the involuntary immigration of African men and women to the United States of America during her social studies sessions with 6th grade. We recognize that some of the other events unfortunately do not align with the Colorado State Standards, however, Mrs. Fuss is reading a variety of books, written by African American authors, about prominent African men and women who changed history, as well as addressing artists and musicians of color. Elementary students have been exploring African American role models, such as Martin Luther King Jr since January. I hope this answers your question and helps you navigate next steps.

“I was fine with her entire answer, except for that term. I kind of, you know, red flags went out,” Laura Hoffman said.

The Hoffmans said they disagree with the term “involuntary immigration” being used to describe slavery. They believe it's extremely offensive.

“Because I think it's flat-out ridiculous to call slavery immigration at all, it’s ridiculous,” Laura Hoffman said.

Laura sent several emails back to the school expressing her concern with the language used. In one email she wrote, “The more time I have had to think about this the more frustrated I have become on your term 'involuntary immigration' of humans into America. I desperately need to hear why you downplayed what happened in our country where men, women, and children were stolen, bought, sold, and abused by calling it that. They were NOT immigrants. They weren’t even considered human. They were PROPERTY. I do NOT want my Black African child being taught that chattel slavery was anything other than what it was - horrific and a stain on our country that has effects even today within our society and systems. I look forward to hearing from you and how this isn’t actually what it appears to be.”

Tim Hoffman said this is unacceptable.

“During Black History Month, this is crazy to be referring to slavery as involuntary immigration. I think the country has come to grips with the term (slavery) we call it, we've been talking about it,” Tim Hoffman said.

Orton's principal responded, saying in an email to the teacher, “First let me state a fact: Slavery was (and still is) an egregious system of exploitation in which humans were mistreated beyond what we, today, can ever comprehend. That is a fact that no one in this building disputes.

I would like to set the record straight. I believe Mrs. Arnold was actually trying to carefully word her email, and used wording that means something very different to her than to you. I know for a fact her intention was not to demean anyone or in any way minimize the abhorrence of slavery. She definitely understands the reality of raising black children in today's world.

I find it unfortunate that, when the meaning of her email strikes you as concerning, you would immediately jump to the conclusion that she and the school are promoting a CRT agenda (which, as you state, is a subject of graduate level studies, not elementary school) or that we are not teaching students a 'true and factual history'. I wish you would have allowed time for Mrs. Arnold to reply to the first email. I am willing to meet with you in person to discuss your assumptions and share with you the facts about how we teach history. As a historian of Black History, I don't allow the sugarcoating of history - EVER.”

A lawyer for Orton Academy said this was a miscommunication. They tell us in a statement, “Orton Academy in a thoughtful and intentional way honors American figures in our history who are black and does so in an inclusive and deliberate way.”

The Hoffman'sHoffmans said they had a meeting scheduled last week to speak with school administrators about this exchange. They said since then the lawyer for the school has declined this meeting.
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