Parents and citizens in Sparta, Tennessee were outraged after learning that a teacher in the county’s only middle school gave her 8th-grade students a “creative writing” assignment with the following shocking sentence as a prompt:
“I didn’t mean to kill her. I only wanted to hurt her, but now her ghost follows me everywhere.”
WND has learned that the teacher at White County Middle School (WCMS) who gave the bizarre assignment is Jessica Griffith, listed as an 8th-grade English Language Arts teacher on the WCMS website. Her baffling writing assignment occurred during the week of Aug. 7.
Griffith told one concerned parent of a White County Middle School student that she “was trying to rush to get a prompt up at the end of class,” according to Nashville NBC affiliate WMV4, which broke the story Tuesday. The news station interviewed parents and a family member who expressed their shock and disappointment at the twisted prompt.
Shelly Davis, mother a student in Griffith’s class, is shown at the White County School Board’s August Board meeting confronting the board over the assignment. According to WMV4, Davis’ son “approached her with the assignment because he was uncomfortable writing it. That is the only reason she would have known about it, she said.”
“He said, ‘Mom, I sat there the rest of the class period, and all I thought was my mind is going to dark places,’” Davis told the school board, according to the broadcast.
Teacher sends apology letter to parents, students
Griffith ultimately met with a group of concerned parents and then wrote an apology letter in which she said: “I have come to realize that the nature of the [writing] prompt was wholly inappropriate and insensitive.”
“Please allow me to express my deepest apologies for my lapse in judgment and the distress it may have caused,” said her apology letter to “my students and their parents.”
The letter was linked to the WMVA story but without Griffith’s name, which was blacked out. WND is the first media to report the instructor’s identity, confirmed by multiple sources, including a parent whose son was in the class and received the perverse writing assignment. That parent spoke to Griffith after the incident, along with other concerned parents.
Holly Miller, a receptionist at the middle school, would not confirm to WND Thursday that Griffith was the teacher in question, and instead referred this reporter to the White Country Board of Education. The Director of White County Schools, Kurt Dronebarger, did not respond to two WND messages by press time.
However, Jennifer Hamblin, a former elected member of the Tennessee State School Board who currently sits on a Tennessee Standards curriculum committee, told WND that she was told directly by a parent whose child was in the class that the teacher was Jessica Griffith.
A White County Tn teacher assigned this to an 8th grade class. They were to write about killing someone. No alternative assignment was given. A student refused to complete the assignment and told his parents.
confirmed with White County School Board official.~Tiffany Boyd pic.twitter.com/qrYxKECR83
— Tiffany (@Tiffany97784681) August 15, 2023
Griffith’s letter of apology states: “My intention behind the prompt was to encourage innovative and unconventional thinking among the students. I was driven by the desire to present a unique challenge, but I am acutely aware that this motivation clouded my judgment and led me astray from my primary responsibility: the well-being and emotional safety of my students.”
“In my pursuit of creativity, I lost sight of the importance of nurturing an environment that promotes respect, understanding, and comfort for each and every student,” she writes. “To the parents who entrust your children’s education to me, I am profoundly sorry for the concern and worry this incident may have provoked. I thank you for your grace and understanding as I work to rectify this situation. I also want to assure you that I take full responsibility for my actions.”
Griffith states, “I am committed to making amends by collaborating closely with our district’s curriculum supervisor to ensure that all future assignment align seamlessly with the educational objectives set forth by our district.”
Student obeys teacher, writes accidental murder story
Although some students reportedly refused to do the assignment, at least one child completed it. White County School Board member Dewayne Howard told WND that he was given a copy of a student’s completed assignment stemming from the gruesome prompt at the school board’s Aug. 10 meeting. That paper can be read above in the Aug. 15 tweet by Tennessee home schooling advocate Tiffany Boyd.
Following teacher Griffith’s prompt, “I never meant to kill her. I only want to hurt her….,” the 8th-grade student writes in his (or her) paper: “It started out as a 20-yr. old male. His name was Erik. He was at college when the accident happened. Jess who Erik [hated] but they had all classes together [sic]. Erik disliked her so much he wanted to hurt her….”
The student ends the assignment with Erik “shoot[ing] bottles and glass” at Jess. “She fell to the ground and started to bleed,” he writes. “[He] had finally calmed down and realised [sic] what he had done…”
Reacting to the student’s essay, Pastor Dale Walker, president of the Tennessee Pastors Network, told WND, “That’s horrible! And it was brought on by a teacher.”
WMV4 interviewed Madison Meadows, whose younger sister is in the same 8th grade class, and said the assignment made Meadows “and her classmates very uncomfortable.”
“I just feel like it’s wrong all across the board,” Meadows told reporter Lydia Fielder. “When I was in eighth grade, I can recall never having to write about murdering someone. It’s just crazy to me. I have a lot of questions as to why. … If they’re viewing this teacher as a role model, what example is she setting for these kids?”
According to the WMV4 story, parents were satisfied with the (then-publicly unnamed) teacher’s apology, with Davis saying: “We don’t want to see the teacher fired, we just hope she learned from it.”
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Pastor, pro-family advocate: apology is not enough
But Walker of the Tennessee Pastors Network said a mere apology letter, and especially one in which the offending teacher’s name was purposely withheld from the public, is not enough to hold the school and the teacher accountable.
“All citizens should find this teacher’s actions very troubling,” Walker said in an Aug. 18 release. “Imagine assigning such a dark writing prompt that talks about killing another human being! This teacher should be immediately suspended and be held accountable for such detestable atrocities.”
School board member Dewayne Howard told WND that “in my mind, the teacher should have been suspended immediately,” noting the contrasting punishment for students, who are suspended if caught drinking alcohol on school grounds.
Walker said the “accidental murder” writing assignment is especially troubling in the wake of the March slaughter at a Nashville Christian elementary school, killing six people including three children. A heavily-armed transgender-identifying woman carried out the attack, and her “manifesto” has yet to be released by authorities, outraging conservatives nationwide.
Walker said, “White County School Board Member Dewayne Howard publicly stated that he would not give a second chance in an instance like this – now is the time for the other School Board members and County Commissioners to boldly stand behind this needed immediate action. A reprimand simply isn’t enough!”
“It is clear why parents are choosing to remove their precious children from public schools that have become centers of diabolical indoctrination. White County School District is right in the heart of the Bible Belt, but it’s clear that public schools are certainly not abiding by biblical principles,” he said.
Linda Harvey, founder and president of Mission America, a Christian group that has been monitoring educational abuses and left-wing indoctrination in schools for three decades, told WND that Griffith had used “extremely bad judgment” in giving her students the prompt.
“In an era when suicide attempts and mental health issues are exploding among our kids, instead of dwelling on death, destruction and possible demonic oppression, can’t we get back to happy and wholesome themes that encourage noble ideas and positive ideals among students?” Harvey said.
She said it was “unconscionable” for a teacher to ask students to even think about harming someone, and said Griffith “ought to be suspended for a period of time with a heavy reprimand in her personal file,” and fired if she commits any other offense.
WND spoke with a Sparta parent of a boy in Griffith’s class, who asked to remain anonymous. He said she “feels horrible about doing it,” and “really wasn’t thinking” when she made the assignment. However, he said, she has “learned from it – that’s the main thing.” He noted that Griffith was only in her second year of teaching, and said he and other concerned parents were told by school authorities that some kind of reprimand of Griffith was forthcoming.
But Hamblin of the Tennessee curriculum committee told WND, “Disciplinary action should align with the behavior, and in this case the disciplinary action just does not seem enough.”
“It still blows my mind,” she said. “The grooming that is going on in schools is mind-boggling.”
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