Crusades Assignment Draws Controversy at Elementary School

A Hamilton Elementary School (CA) seventh grader drew a picture of Jesus with the words “Kill All the Infidels” written underneath, and the boy’s teacher hung the drawing on the wall. A parent of another student saw the drawing and contacted school administrators requesting that it be taken down. The parent, Chris Alfaro, who identified himself as a Christian, said that the drawing stood against everything Christianity stands for. So far, the school hasn’t complied.

Are they out of line? Not necessarily. The student drew the picture as part of a history class assignment that asked kids to draw a Help Wanted poster aimed at recruiting soldiers for the Crusades, the conflict they are currently studying.

In the picture, you can see a man wearing a Jesus name tag, with the caption, “I want you to kill all infidels.” Below, the phrases: “meet me in Jerusalem” and “get a free ticket to heaven.” The artwork is one of several drawings in a display case inside the main lobby at Hamilton Elementary.

Alfaro, whose 2nd grader attends Hamilton, said that his wife was the one who noticed the drawing, but her request to have it removed was ignored. He explained that it’s “common sense” that a picture like that isn’t an appropriate one for an elementary school, especially displayed centrally, as it is, where every student sees it at least twice daily.

Action News reached out to the school, but did not get a call back. A spokesperson with the Fresno Unified District did however speak with us and released this statement, explaining why the picture was drawn, saying in part, “Students at Hamilton were assigned to create a help wanted poster for soldiers needed to fight in the crusades and write a poem about Joan of arc, the Black Death, or the Magna Carta and create a visual background for it. This was one of several posters displayed.”

Regardless of the assignment’s intent, Rabbi Rick Winer, it still crosses a line and is inappropriate. Winer, who has a degree in comparative religious studies, and who leads the Temple Beth Israel in Fresno, California, said that if the goal was to learn from the events like the Crusades and the Holocaust, the teachers would accomplish more by encouraging students to engage with peaceful imagery rather than that of horror and conflict.

Alfaro just wants it taken down, and says that while he has nothing but respect for both the school and the student who drew the poster, it doesn’t belong on the Hamilton’s wall.

Shortly after Action News called the school, Alfaro and his wife both received a message from the principal here asking them if they would like to meet and discuss their concerns.

06 13, 2012
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