CHICAGO -- Parents at a board meeting this week angrily demanded an explanation for why fourth-graders at an Illinois school were shown a graphic movie depicting a slave ship -- an HBO film that warns of adult content, nudity and violence.
"There is no question it is inappropriate," Kenneth Cull, one of the Winnetka district's interim co-superintendents, told the dozens of parents who attended the District 36 school board meeting Tuesday night to ask about the film.
Administrators are investigating the classroom viewing of "The Middle Passage," which depicts nudity, rape and suicide. Officials have already recommended a new policy to prevent a similar situation from happening again.
From now on, outside videos that are not G-rated must be screened by a school's principal and a small group of teachers, said Nancy Fehrenbach, District 36 school board president.
But some parents wanted harsher punishments for the teachers responsible for showing the film to students, saying their children were "scarred" from watching the graphic scenes.
The back of the videotape of "The Middle Passage," shown in at least two Greeley School fourth-grade classrooms last week, has a warning that reads "NOT RATED: Adult Content, Nudity, Violence."
Patrick Livney, whose 9-year-old daughter saw the video in class Feb. 16, said he wants a "strict, zero-tolerance obeyance of these policies" and for "a meaningful penalty for our educators that we entrust when we send our children to school."
Part of the district's investigation into the incident, which is expected to be completed by Friday, is to find "culpability," Cull said. Administrators would not discuss possible disciplinary actions against teachers, as personnel matters are considered confidential.
Other parents downplayed the video's impact on the children.
"I can say nothing but good things about the schools," said Jen McQuet, a District 36 substitute teacher uninvolved in the incident. She has a child in a different District 36 school. "I respectfully disagree with punishing this teacher."
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