Student essay contest creates controversy

ALACHUA Co., Fla., (WCJB) --- The Alachua County Democratic Party is sponsoring their 5th Annual Black History Month essay contest for public and private middle schools in the community.

Students are being asked, "Would you build a wall or a bridge?", and many parents are questioning if the topic is suitable for middle school students.

The essay question was approved by Alachua County's Public Schools spokesperson, Jackie Johnson, and she said she feels that the question is appropriate.

“The essay contest doesn’t tell students one way or the other what their position is. It tells them you decide what you think is appropriate and write about that," stated Johnson.

Johnson said she shared the contest with teachers and left it to them to decide if they would share it with the students.

She said, "It's certainly not a requirement, it should not be built into the curriculum, students should not be getting extra credit for it, this is something that students decide if they want to do this independent of school."

Alachua’s Democratic Party Chair, Cynthia Chestnut said she is surprised by the reactions.

When Chestnut was asked what she'd say to the parents that may think the essay question is leading she said,

"Well perhaps they would have a conversation with their child and they would decide as a family that this is something that they would not want their youngster to write about. On the other hand, I think it's going to incite and inspire other students to want to."

TV20 reached out to the chairman of the Alachua County Republican Party, Tony McKnight, and he stated that he feels that it’s a fair topic for an essay question.

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