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

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.

  • Rick Schubert

    All I can say is that this is not right and the teacher’s (substitute) background should be investigated. Is this happening else where?

  • Dave

    Yes, we need to whitewash history so our delicate sensibilities are not offended. Let’s show only the good history so we can feel good about ourselves. If I didn’t see it it could not have possibly happened, right?

    • Sam

      Excellent point. Ancient history.

  • Dodai

    whats the matter? are you ashamed of what your ancestors did to a nation of people which more than likely included children the same age as yours? What these students saw was the Brutal treatment and living conditions forced on the ancestors of the so called African Americans and other enslaved people. The shame should be on you and not the teacher in showing what was perpertrated on Human beings in our past. These things did happen. Explain why if you can. this is a part of history, American and World, that can’t be erased,and shouldn’t be. Teachers teach, the good and the bad. Helps them to become better human beings in the treatment of other Human beings.

    • Get your facts straight

      You are really showing your ignorant self by your spewing your lies. Just to give you a quick history lesson, BLACKS sold other blacks to the white man. The blacks that were sold were a conquered tribe and were slaves of the other black tribe. Is slavery wrong? ABSOLUTELY! But don’t blame us white people for something that began with your own people and don’t blame us for something that happened over 200 years ago.

      • DCL

        Did you really just blame African chieftains more than the Europeans who established the centuries-old system that was based on the idea that the enslaved were not merely enslaved humans, but subhuman property tantamount to pets and livestock? Of course it’s true that the elite of African peoples played some role in the establishment of Western slavery (not as much as you’re trying to say in your revisionism). But downplaying the superiority basis and motivation of European imperialism for the big business of slavery, and the effects felt to this day, is only playing yourself.

        Some “straight facts” you have…

        Anyway, as Dodai mentioned , this stuff really happened, and while I haven’t seen the work germane to this article, it doesn sound like it may be a little “much” for the age group in question. But there is plenty of material available on the topic of enslaved Africans that can convey the message effectively to a younger audience with minimal concern for emotional trauma to concern the parents.

      • Tony

        Couldn’t have said it better myself.Good job.

      • Um No You Are Wring

        The slave trade was an extremely complex event

        Yes, Africans we sold in slavery by other by other Africans AND often kidnapped by European slave traders as well.

        If you are going to school others on history at least make sure your accuracy matches your sel- righteous anger.

    • Get real

      At some point, everyone needs to learn about sex. Does this mean we should start showing pornos to 4th graders, too?

  • fed up

    What’s the beef, the movie was rated PG-pretty gross.

  • Torrence

    I can only image that each of the children that were affected where Anglo-Saxon youth. I remember that we intensively studied the Holocaust in 5th grade, and it included all aspects of it. Rape, Murder, and other forms of inhumane acts are things that children at the 4th grade age should be made aware of. Why don’t you want your children to learn about slavery, and how crude that some people can be. It’s a fact of history. The parents should have been able to talk to the children about how to love one another and not base their interactions on color.

  • bassy

    The moment you drop your child at a school you have given up your right to decide with is appropriate for your child. Too late now.

  • rasheem

    To deny your child the right to learn the truth about the country she lives in, it’s history of slavery, wars, conquest, hatered and all the other negatives, which by the way has been the story of nations thru out the history of this planet, will be a disservice to her. If you don’t teach her the truth now, she will believe the lies later. Question, do you lie to your daughter? If not, why do you want someone else to lie to her.

  • Rach

    I feel really bad about your daughter’s “loss of innocence,” however, I feel worse for children that have lost their innocence to the institution of slavery. You can’t shelter your children too much, or they won’t grow up with an accurate representation of what the world can be like — cruel. Get over it …

    • Anglo-Saxon

      Slavery is ancient history,get over it.

      • Mr. Justice

        You are Correct! I am tired of all the excuses the black panthers and other similar groups keep spewing. The black man sold other black men and women to the white man. That’s how it all started. it’s over, get over it indeed!
        I like your comments Anglo-Saxon. Hope you also support the 2nd Amendment.

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  • Stack

    NOBODY is suggesting that kids not be taught history…even the horrible parts…

    The ISSUE is to spring it on them at a VERY young age with no parental knowledge can cause a lot of harm and confusion for a child who is unprepared. The reality is that this is an UGLY world…and the PARENTS are the ones who should be deciding when and how this information is discussed or at least be made aware so that they can help with the emotions that will follow. The parents are the ones who know how this information will affect each of their children and how best to ‘be there” for conversation when it IS presented.

    To those of you saying “get over it”…do you have children? Do you remember being 9 years old and how very much things like this impressed upon your mind when you were too young to handle the images?

    I’ve got kids and they are each GOING to learn this stuff…and I’m not going to keep them from the knowledge…but I AM going to shelter them and bring them to the knowledge at their level of understanding so as to lessen the trauma.

    How is it in anyway necessary to destroy the innocence of THESE children because of what other children have gone through. Which one of us would NOT have protected the children of slavery or the children of the holocaust, were it not in our power? I would have protected them if I could…as I could NOT, I choose to protect the ones that I can.

  • Is a Graphic Slavery Film Too Much for Nine-Year-Olds? |

    […] “As a parent and father I was destroyed, in the sense that I felt incapacitated in protecting my child,” said Patrick Livney, father of nine-year-old Becca, a student at the Greeley School in Winnetka where the film was shown. “The concept of a rape, suicide, depression at the age of 9 years old is a sad commentary,” he said, according to CBS. […]

  • MeMe

    A brief history lesson here!!! For all you intellectual white people…Remember the black man did give their people to the white man, not as slaves…it begin in the 14th century, they were told that the would become chrisitians, servants for God. The black man in Africa received goods for the white man. As always white people lying to get ahead!

    White people please stop whitewashing the truth! it is what it is! Stay in your suburbs and only visit the urban city when you want and need your drugs. Keep telling yourself…that its all a dream! Suzy, it will be over soon.

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