Rantz: School cancels 4th grade play over ‘cultural appropriation’ complaints with little notice

Apr 27, 2022, 6:14 PM | Updated: May 1, 2022, 6:42 pm

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An elementary school in Tacoma canceled a 4th grade performance of Lewis and Clark with just over a week’s notice because of two complaints.

Lowell Elementary principal Renee Rossman informed parents on Tuesday, April 26th, that she was pulling the plug on the play. She said it depicted stereotypes and engaged in cultural appropriation.

The decision caught parents and children by surprise. The performance was set for May 5th.

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‘Cultural appropriation’

After receiving two complaints from parents, Rossman made the surprise announcement claiming the play is inappropriate.

“It is essential that our school promote respect for all cultures and people. We must not perpetuate stereotypes or engage in cultural appropriation. After thoughtful consideration along with Racial Justice training at Lowell for all staff, I have decided to cancel the 4th grade performance of Lewis and Clark,” Rossman wrote in a letter obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

Lewis and Clark follow Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as they “discover the Great Unknown West.” It reportedly involves a “hostile encounter” with the Teton Sioux and depicts Sacagawea as she helped the two explore the land.

“I know students have been preparing and may feel disappointed, but we ask for your support as we take this time to reflect, learn and revise our practices,” Rossman wrote.

Due to the short time frame between the letter and the play’s scheduled performance, the principal said she would not schedule another play this school year.

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No detailed explanation

Beyond the letter, there was no detailed explanation as to what was offensive about a play written for children. Rossman also does not explain the concern about cultural appropriation, though one parent suspects it’s because the students who depict Native Americans are white.

A school spokesperson says the decision was made in consultation with district officials.

“After receiving complaints from parents about the play, the school and district reviewed the script. The script contains cultural stereotypes that misrepresent the customs and traditions of Native Americans. We initially sought to revise the script but determined given the timeline it was not possible,” the spokesperson explained via email to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

The spokesperson says they didn’t take the decision likely but “as a district, we value cultural understanding and strive to create inclusive school environments, and ultimately the play didn’t align with our values.”

This is absurd

On the face, cultural appropriation claims are absurd — more so if it’s due to non-Native Americans cast in the role of the Teton Sioux and Sacagawea. These were fourth-graders playing adults, so we needn’t pretend the school takes accurate casting seriously.

And, despite their complaints, the two parents were almost certainly not offended. They likely pretended to be offended as a way to signal their virtue.

More concerning is that the school approved the script, to begin with. If the script gets in front of kids, it should mean the school reviewed the material and thought it was age-appropriate and aligned with the district’s values. That Rossman suddenly had a moment of clarity after attending left-wing equity training meant to prey on white guilt is not a reason to pull the rug from under the feet of kids who worked hard on the production.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3–6 pm on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  InstagramFacebook, and YouTube. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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