Parents Concerned Over "R" Rated Movie Shown in 8th Grade Classroom

January 18, 2006 – Posted at 5:49 p.m. CST
RIPLEY COUNTY, MISSOURI -- A film being shown in a Region 8 classroom is drawing fire from some concerned parents.
The topic is slavery and it's being taught in an 8th grade American History Class in Doniphan. But it’s a film shown about middle passage that is causing some waves.
At the center of the controversy is the 1997 Steven Spielberg film based on the true story of the slave ship Amistad.
Zane and Christy Whaley say they found it disturbing when their daughter told them what she had seen in her 8th grade history class.
“A kid can't go to the theatre and watch a rated "R" film,” said Zane Whaley, “My kids don't watch rated "R" films here, so the school shouldn't be showing rated "R" films.”
The movie Amistad is a graphic portrayal of slavery prior to the Civil War. Several scenes depict horrific violence and full frontal male and female nudity.
“I don't want our kids to remain ignorant about slavery. Slavery was bad that we had a war. It was the bloodiest time in our nation's history...but I don't think we have to show naked people in the process, I don't think we have to show that much violence either,” said Whaley.
K8 news contacted Doniphan school officials about the issue, and while Superintendent Kevin Sandlin wouldn't speak with us on camera, he did issue this statement:
"We are looking into the matter and will have further discussion with the board of education in the near future. As part of this process, we will consider our policies and practices as they relate to these matters."
The Whaley family believes there are better ways to teach the history of slavery.
“I'd like to see them quit doing it. I'd like to see that teacher reprimanded,” said Whaley.
The Motion Picture Association of America gives Amistad an "R" rating. That means the film is restricted to those under the age of 17. To watch the movie, they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. In this case the film was shown as an educational tool to a classroom full of 14-year-olds.
Amistad runs 2 hours and 32 minutes. The Whaley's say the film shown to the classroom was edited, but still contained the graphic scenes.