- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A black middle schooler in Montgomery County, Maryland, was told to sign a contract pledging not to harm himself after he drew a picture for a class assignment depicting members of the Ku Klux Klan lynching a black man and the words “Black Lives Matter.”

Tidiani Epps Jr., a sixth-grader at Montgomery Village Middle School, told The Washington Post that his drawing meant to show that racism in America is not dead.

“In this picture, I was trying to describe what was going on in the world, and what happened back then,” the 11-year-old said. “It’s what happened back then, and a piece of what happened back then is still here today in the present, like racism.”

But the teacher interpreted the drawing as a suicide threat and reported it to a school counselor, who recommended a mental health evaluation, The Post reported.

Tidiani was pulled out of class Friday and had to sign a safety contract promising not to self harm. He underwent a mental health screening at the Montgomery County Crisis Center on Monday, a local CBS News affiliate reported.

“I felt like I did something wrong but as I come back home, my mom tells me I didn’t do anything wrong, so I’m proud of this,” Tidiani told the station.

The sixth-grader said he thought the assignment last week celebrating Banned Books Week was to draw something you didn’t want to see anymore. He drew a tall tree with a small black person hanging from it by a rope. Underneath showed two white people with pointed hoods and word bubbles saying, “Hang” and “Kill.” The drawing was titled “Black Lives Matter.”

“I just want it to stop,” Tidiani told The Post. “I don’t want to see this any more. Young black people get killed for no reason. It’s not fair or right.”

His mother, Sade Green, said she was “livid” about how the school responded.

“They didn’t like it and it just bothered them so instead of turning something into a positive, they just brushed it off and said, ‘OK, something’s got to be wrong with him,” she told CBS.

Montgomery County school officials told The Post that the teacher misinterpreted the picture.

“The concern was for his safety,” said school system spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala. “She misunderstood his drawing. She thought it depicted that he felt in danger or he felt suicidal.”

She said Tidiani was not being punished and that the school was just concerned about the boy’s well-being.

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