Mumia Abu-Jamal curriculum reinstated in California school district

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Unified School District is reinstating a controversial curriculum -- an optional lesson on convicted police killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

On Wednesday, new Superintendent Antwan Wilson unveiled his vision for the school district. It did not include the mention of Abu-Jamal. Though he reinstated the controversial web material, clearly he doesn't think it deserves much attention.

"It's our responsibility to have high expectations of students," said Wilson. "It's our job to make sure that you believe in yourselves."

While the new superintendent is promoting his vision of a bright future for the Oakland Unified School District, he's also quietly putting aside a past controversy.

"What I won't allow is a diversion around a minor curriculum that is not our major curriculum, that is not our focus, to be distorted into a message that takes us away from what our primary focus is," he said.

That curriculum was part a web presentation called "Urban Dreams." It had been on the Oakland schools website for 10 years, as supplemental online material for high school teachers.

Within a unit on Martin Luther King, there is an activity on Mumia Abu-Jamal, serving a life sentence in Pennsylvania for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

The lesson asks students to consider a comparison between King and Abu-Jamal, as it relates to alleged oppression by the U.S. government.

The section was removed from the OUSD website in April after complaints from Faulkner's widow and the fraternal order of police.

"I'm really glad that it is being reinstated," said retired Oakland teacher Craig Gordon.

Gordon wrote the section that includes the material on Abu-Jamal.

"Mumia Abu-Jamal, you know many believe and many human rights organizations have confirmed that his trial was completely unfair and unjust and he really hasn't been proven to be guilty of killing anybody," he said.

OUSD plans to put the Urban Dreams website back online in the coming weeks.
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