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Parent Upset That Graphic Slavery Film Was Shown To 4th-Grader

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A screen grab from the film "The Middle Passage" (HBO Home Video)

A screen grab from the film “The Middle Passage” (HBO Home Video)

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WINNETKA (CBS) — A French film called “The Middle Passage” is the center of a bitter controversy in Winnetka.

It depicts, in chilling detail, the horrors endured by Africans captured and chained aboard a slave ship. The fact that the movie was shown to fourth-graders in Winnetka has some parents enraged.

CBS 2’s Mike Parker talked with one of those parents tonight about the effect it had on his 9-year-old daughter.

“She said, daddy it’s too horrible to talk about,” Patrick Livney says of his daughter’s reaction to the film.

But Becca Livney finally talked to her father about “The Middle Passage,” the movie her substitute teacher had shown her fourth-grade class at the Greeley School in Winnetka.

The film’s narrator speaks not only of suicide, but of child rapes.

When Livney learned of the latter form of abuse, he said he felt devastated.

“As a parent and father I was destroyed, in the sense that I felt incapacitated in protecting my child,” he says.

Livney and two other parents confronted district school officials. He says they conceded that the film had not been approved by the school board.

“The concept of a rape, suicide, depression at the age of 9 years old is a sad commentary,” he says.

A writer on film and entertainment for the RedEye newspaper took a look at the film. While Kyra Kyles says the film has historic and educational value, she had reservations about how some of the content may impact a young audience.

“I think there are a lot of terms that are used that are not really for a younger audience,” Kyra Kyles says.

Patrick Livney says teachers should not usurp his right to decide what is appropriate for his daughter.

He’s taking his case to the school board Tuesday night.

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