State Rep. Chuck Basye has made a call for change within Columbia Public Schools because he believes that courses at Hickman High School contain what he calls "highly inappropriate subject matter."
In a news release, Basye, R-Rocheport, said what he characterized as the district's refusal to address parents' concerns is reason to call for Superintendent Brian Yearwood's immediate resignation.
“Parents and students deserve far better than what they’re seeing at Hickman and in the Columbia Public Schools system, which seem to have no interest in ensuring appropriate material is taught in the classroom,” Basye said in the news release. “Given the fact that Dr. Yearwood is either unaware of the subject matter being taught in his schools or is blatantly lying, it’s clear he’s not fit to carry on as superintendent. Immediate change is needed to improve the educational environment so that it is appropriate for young people.”
Basye — who has criticized the district repeatedly — said in the release that parents have brought concerns to him multiple times surrounding materials presented in an Advanced Placement U.S. studies class.
Teachers gave an assignment involving the "This is America" music video by Childish Gambino. The music video involves gun violence, murder and drug use, but rapper Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) has described the video as symbolistic and a metaphor.
Basye said Hickman principal Tony Gragnani was contacted about the use of materials in class, but he "downplayed the concerns of the parents."
In an emailed statement, district spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said the district was not included on Basye's emailed news release calling for Yearwood's resignation. She said the district will "choose the path of empathy and grace with regard to Rep. Basye's announcement."
"We believe in kindness toward others and our top priority is our scholars. We will remain focused on doing our best every day to support our scholars and their future success," Baumstark said.
Baumstark sent KOMU 8 the email correspondence between Gragnani and Basye, which took place between Sept. 8 and Sept. 10. It said the video played was part of a larger lesson connected to the following learning standards.
"Depending on your answer, I am considering contacting media outlets, legislative colleagues, the Missouri Governor's Office and the Missouri Attorney General's office," Basye said in his email to Gragnani.
The same class had another assignment that raised Basye's concerns, this time involving material produced by Nikole Hannah-Jones, one of the authors of "The 1619 Project." Basye claims the use of this material directly contradicts a statement made by Yearwood in August on a Columbia radio show, that "The 1619 Project" would not be implemented in district.
Baumstark said the district does not include critical race theory nor has it adopted the 1619 curriculum.
She also said Basye submitted a Sunshine Request to the district earlier this month asking for records related to a list of terms he has identified as being affiliated with race discussions, critical race theory and the 1619 Project.
"The district is working on completing his request," Baumstark said.
According to Baumstark, Basye has never met with Yearwood, "nor has he attempted to contact or interact with him beyond submitting records requests and complaints to the district."