US & Canada

Wisconsin teacher removed for essay defending Ku Klux Klan

Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird displayed in Chicago. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Milwaukee students (not pictured) had just watched To Kill a Mockingbird

A Wisconsin charter school teacher has been suspended after giving students an essay to defend the Ku Klux Klan.

The Milwaukee educator said in a letter to parents that the students would write a paper defending the white supremacy group.

The teacher, who is African-American, emphasised the goal was to teach seventh-graders to write persuasively.

The school withdrew the assignment, adding it believed there was no malicious intent involved.

Parents contacted the Business and Economics Academy of Milwaukee (BEAM) after receiving the letter outlining the essay for when class resumed in January.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Though much-diminished from its 1860s heyday, a handful of Ku Klux Klan organisations linger in parts of the US

"This paper will be a persuasive paper defending Klan members on trial," said the assignment for the students, who are between 12-14 years old. They had recently watched To Kill a Mockingbird.

The teacher noted that it was not meant to "teach the students the Klan was correct in their behaviour, but rather to teach the students to write persuasively", according to the school's statement.

BEAM - which, like other charter schools, is supported by public money, but operates outside the local state school system - has removed the teacher while it conducts an investigation into the incident.

"BEAM feels that the objective of teaching students how to write persuasively is important," the school said in a statement on its website.

"However, we feel that the choice of topic is inappropriate for a 7th grade class. A new topic will be selected for the assignment."

The incident comes amid fears over US race relations and the emergence of the fringe "alt-right" group, which includes neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites.