Salem Junior High School administrators canceled an assignment given this week that asked ninth-grade students to develop a propaganda poster for extremist groups such as ISIS.
A spokeswoman for the Utah school’s district, Lana Hiskey, said Friday that a “very naive but enthusiastic” first-year educator came up with the assignment. She was teaching her class about the Middle East.
“She wanted to teach a little about propaganda,” Hiskey said. “I think what happened was she got excited, with all this stuff in the news right now, and this was one way to get kids excited about an assignment.”
The teacher asked her students to create a “neat, colored, professional” propaganda poster for one of the terrorist groups they had discussed as a class. The assignment’s goal was to “help students better understand the goals of terrorist groups and the methods they use to gain support.”
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the school district included a note explaining that students who were uncomfortable with the assignment’s instructions could opt out for a different assignment.
School administrators were informed about the assignment after classes were over Wednesday. Four of the children’s parents contacted the school about it, Hiskey said.
“We shouldn’t be talking about how ISIS recruits, we should be discussing the events of what they have caused to figure a way of how to deter that and how to help better the world,” Annie Langston, a parent whose daughter received the assignment, said to ABC News. “I thought this isn’t right, not right now.”
Langston added that the possibility of having to search for ISIS recruitment information on the internet at a time when officials are trying to identify potential threats was scary, ABC reported.
The following day, students were told that the assignment had been canceled and a message had been posted on the school’s Facebook page.
It read as follows:
“After consultation, the assignment was immediately withdrawn. If parents have any concerns, please call the administration at Salem Junior High.”
Hiskey added that the school and the Nebo school district will continue to welcome any feedback from parents on the content shared and in classes.
“They weren’t outraged,” she explained. “They were concerned, and with valid concerns.”
Some took to Facebook to criticize the assignment. Criticizers said the assignment was injecting liberal bias into education and forcing students to sympathize with terrorists, Salt Lake Tribune reported.
But others defended the teacher. Parents said that the lesson plan was ill-advised but it was trying to educate students on the recruiting efforts of dangerous terrorist groups.
“I probably would have objected too,” Norene Gay wrote. “But it sounds like the intentions were those of a young teacher who wanted to stimulate real thinking on a current issue.”
Hiskey said that the teacher “did this innocently.” She said that the teacher was sorry for handing out the assignment.
“She wants to do the right thing,” Hiskey added.
Hiskey said that the teacher has not been placed on leave. The instructor is still employed and on a provisional intern status.