Controversy rises over Richland County middle school teacher’s State of the Union Bingo assignment

BELLVILLE, Ohio - President Donald Trump's State of the Union address was an event many educators encouraged young history students to watch, but parents in one local school district believe an assignment that was apparently intended to get them more engaged in listening to the speech went too far.

Between 130 and 145 middle school students in the Clear Fork Valley Local School District were sent home with a "State of the Union Bingo" sheet Tuesday.

The assignment contained 25 squares with common phrases and actions often repeated President Trump including "Tax Cuts," "Mexico," "The Economy," and "The Wall."

But some parents, who wish to remain anonymous, believed that some of the other squares were extremely disrespectful and reflect the teacher's personal political bias.

For example, the Bingo sheet included squares that read "Trump takes a drink with two hands," "Huge (Yuuge)," "Trump Bashes a Democrat," and "Black Unemployment."

"I don't think they are offensive by themselves but if you put them on a piece of paper and use them as Bingo it does seem a little bit skewed toward a personal political agenda and that's really not what public education is about," said Superintendent Janice Wyckoff.

Fox 8 News discovered a blank template for the lesson offered online by an organization called National Constitution Center.

The organization explained the following on their website:

"State of the Union Bingo is a tool designed to engage students in the President’s annual address to Congress. The lesson begins during the class prior to the address with the teacher providing background information about the State of the Union Address and examining the Constitutional requirement of the annual address. As a homework assignment, students are then each given a State of the Union Bingo card to use while watching the speech. The next class session, the cards are used as a discussion starter as well as a tool to analyze the President’s agenda for the coming year."

The website instructs teachers to have their students do the following:

  1. Watch the State of the Union Address.
  2. Listen carefully to the President’s speech.
  3. When the President says one the keywords or one of the actions is carried out, mark your Bingo card.

However, some parents are upset about the choice of content for the squares.  They argued that the content is not appropriate to send home as an 8th-grade assignment.

"I am hearing that and when I look at that...is it disrespectful? I do think it is. We are talking about the President of The United States, the most powerful man in the world. If he's using those words that is his choice but I don't think as Americans we should be focusing on those individual words," said Wyckoff.

The superintendent told Fox 8 she believes the content of the Bingo sheet was not created by the teacher who distributed it but was downloaded from a satirical website.

"We do here, in the Valley, want our teachers to look at outside sources, but they have to be smart about what they use," said Wyckoff.  "We need to deliver a balanced approach so you see the Democratic side, the Independent side, and the Republican side because we try to create independent thinkers."

Wyckoff said she has spoken with the teacher and intends to follow up on their initial conversation about the choice that was made.

"Is it the right document to use for kids in a history class?  Probably not in this polarizing political atmosphere that we are in, but it really was meant to help kids focus in," she said.

More on the State of the Union, here.

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