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School under fire for lesson that claimed George Floyd died of heart attack


A New York high school teacher is under fire after she told students George Floyd died of a heart attack and drug overdose.

English teacher Hope Antonelli made the claim about Floyd as part of a ninth-grade English assignment on Friday, The Times Herald-Record reported.

The assignment asked students to “create a bold topic/thematic sentence.”

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in court.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin during his trial over George Floyd’s death last month.
Court TV/AFP via Getty Images

“George Floyd did not die because (Derek) Chauvin’s knee was on his neck,” said the assignment, which has since made the rounds on social media.


“He died from a heart attack and drug overdose. However, because Chauvin used excessive force and failed to render aid, he was convicted on all three counts by a jury of his peers. (Arrest was over a counterfeit $20 bill).”

Chauvin was convicted last month for Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020. In video footage of Floyd’s arrest, Chauvin was seen pressing his knee on Floyd.

The assignment went on to mention juror Brandon Mitchell, saying he denied being involved in BLM or if he protested against the officers in the case in any form.

“New evidence has surfaced that he could not have been forthcoming in his statements,” the assignment reads. “Should the Derek Chauvin case be retried because of Brandon Mitchell. Why or Why Not?”

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The assignment has provoked outrage of parents and sparked a review by the Saugerties Central School District.

An image from the video showing Derek Chauvin holding George Floyd down with his knee.
A screengrab showing Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck.
Facebook/Darnella Frazier/AFP vi

Sakinah Irizarry told NBC News the assignment was harmful regardless of race because of the traumatic experience it used for a lesson.

“Even if we were not talking about this case, specifically, it takes the death of a person, I’d say, from a very cold and distant point of view,” she said.

“I keep coming back to empathy. It is not an empathetic point of view of a person who died, it is blaming a person who’s died for their own death,” she added. “That chips away at empathy.”

Superintendent Kirk Rienhart said a student told them they were uncomfortable with the assignment on Friday. It wasn’t clear how many students had been given the assignment.

“We immediately got in contact with the (student’s) family,” Reinhardt said, according to the Herald-Record. “Our goal as a school community is to see that all our students feel they are seen, heard, respected and valued.”

The superintendent wouldn’t say if the teacher was facing discipline.

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