HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Valerie Kennel is mad and she wants answers. She was furious when her sixth-grade daughter from Giunta Middle School in Riverview came home with something called “The Lifeboat Test,” where students were forced to make a choice.
Who would they save on a sinking ship? Who lives and who dies? There are 15 choices listed on the test, but only nine people can be picked to survive. Their descriptions include race, gender and religion. Kennel tells News Channel 8, “It’s racist in every form.”
“This had nothing to do with history, nothing to do with it, and what is it teaching them?” she added.
Kennel’s daughter, Leah Davis, is 11 years old. The mother of two wonders why her daughter had to make a “very adult” choice on a test, an assignment that upset Leah. “Who do you pick? Why is one person better than the other? Why does some get left out?” she asked.
So, who would you get rid of in this situation: The white man or the black man? The Hispanic woman or the pregnant woman? The rabbi or the minister? President Barack Obama or Donald Trump?
Kennel insists, “Leah is 11. How is she supposed to pick people based off of what they’re saying? Like to her everybody matters. Everybody should have a chance. They didn’t do anything wrong. Everybody deserves to be saved,” Kennel explained.
According to Leah, other students in her history class were uncomfortable. One was so upset, the pre-teen claims, that her classmate refused the assignment, ripped up the paper and was then reprimanded by the teacher, Mr. Hagerman. Leah went on to say that the student was sent next door in a “time-out.”
“Whenever I got it at school, I was like, I don’t want to do this, and I got kind of upset about it,” Leah said. “Everybody in the classroom got upset about it and said, ‘This is racist. This is racist.’”
The Hillsborough County School District claims this was supposed to be a team-building exercise and was not meant to be racist. In fact, a spokesperson tells News Channel 8, “This school has a culturally diverse population. The test brought up good debates on how to work together, building relationships.”
But, for Kennel, that’s not good enough. She plans to meet with the principal. “They need to be careful with what their teachers are putting out there,” Kennel said.