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Binghamton schools release statement after criticism of children’s book about race

Something Happened in Our Town

BINGHAMTON (WBNG) -- Days after a teacher read a book titled "Something Happened in Our Town" out loud to students via Youtube as the elementary school's April Book of the Month, the Binghamton City School District released a statement to the media Monday, apologizing to police officers "for the negative light this has shined on their profession."

The book, written by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazzard, is based on the viewpoints of two children who attend the same classroom. According to the book's summary, the story follows "two families -- one White, one Black -- as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children's questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives."

In a statement dated April 16, but not released to 12 News until Monday, the district explained why it chose the book while also stating, "in no way does this book represent our thinking or beliefs about our police."

The Youtube link to the read-aloud video was taken down Friday morning. It is not immediately clear if the district has chosen to continue the use of the book.

The full statement from the school district is posted below:

The Binghamton City School District prides itself on its diverse school community. We were made aware of recent posts on social media and have received several phone calls that expressed concern about the use of a read-aloud book at the elementary level for book of the month titled, “Something Happened in Our Town,” by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazzard. The publisher’s suggested audience for the book is ages 4 to 8. The book is about the experiences and perspectives of two children growing up in the same town and attending the same school, in the same classroom. One child is black, the other is white and the book develops a rich dialogue about how these children and their families see the world around them from the perspective of race.

The book reflects a national topic that is current and impacts many of our students and their families. While the book includes conversation around racial bias and injustice against African Americans, the concepts are focused on the importance of treating everyone fairly. As the book shares, “there are many cops, black and white, who make good choices.” The dialogue following the reading of this book draws awareness to bias, emphasizing that it is not okay to judge people based on their race, what they look and sound like, or the role they play in the community.

In an effort to teach about tolerance, the book was shared with students in small reading groups. Teachers were provided the necessary resources to handle the important questions and dialogue that may arise after reading the book. The intent behind the use of the book was to promote inclusion and anti-racism.

We support and respect the brave police officers that protect our community. In no way does this book represent our thinking or beliefs about our police. It is unfortunate when any profession is portrayed negatively. We apologize for the negative light this has shined on their profession and commitment to our safety. The Binghamton City School District has embraced School Resource Officers, each whom have served as outstanding role models for our students. We are proud of the relationships they and other officers have developed with our students and the school community.

This is a developing story. Stay with 12 News for more information.

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