Zakiya Milhouse was shocked when her 7-year-old son Amonn Jackson came home with a realistic bullet hole painted onto his forehead. She told AL.com, “It looked so real in person, that it looked like something happened.”
That’s when she realized what she was looking at.
“It was supposed to be a gunshot wound,” she said. “That’s when I got upset. A gunshot wound.” Milhouse posted a picture of the fake wound on Facebook, captioning it:
So they did this in drama class and my boy said the teacher said it’s like he got shot I don’t like that shit ! I don’t care if it’s Halloween or NOT ! A bullet hole in the head
With the rise in gun violence, especially in schools, this is an alarming image for any mother. But Milhouse told reporters that it was especially insensitive in like of gun violence directed towards black men.
“This actually happens to our black young men,” she said. “If you saw it in person, it looked real.”
So they did this in drama class and my boy said the teacher said it's like he got shot I don't like that shit ! I don’t care if it’s Halloween or NOT ! A bullet hole in the head ??
The bullet hole was painted as part of a drama class at Phillips Academy in downtown Birmingham. Milhouse admits that she signed a permission slip for the class, but still thinks the teacher should have shown better judgment. She approached him as well, and says he apologized, but didn’t seem to understand the issue.
“He didn’t think it was a real big deal,” she said. “He said he did paint on different kids, such as black eyes. He said was going to take it out of his lesson plan.”
Birmingham City Schools released a lengthy statement of apology after Milhouse’s Facebook post gained wider attention. It walks a tightrope of taking responsibility while also trying to make imply Milhouse has some culpability in the situation:
Birmingham City Schools is aware of an image posted by a parent on social media depicting a wound on a student’s head. The student was participating in a theater class unit on stage, film, and special effects.
The teacher sent permission forms home with students making parents aware of the unit and requesting permission to put makeup on students.
Students were asked if they would like the makeup on their hands or faces, and this student chose his face. Students are never forced to participate, and they had the option to skip a design.
The teacher and principal called the student’s mother to apologize for the incident, and the teacher assured the student’s mother that no malice was behind the depiction. The teacher also stated that the only aim in teaching makeup techniques is to help students appreciate and understand the technical elements of performing arts.
As a culturally responsive school system, Birmingham City Schools takes issues like this very seriously and does not condone the graphic nature of this lesson on special effects. We regret any issues and perceptions this incident may have caused, and this portion of the lesson will be removed from the unit.
Removing the lesson from the unit seems like the best response. Second grade is young for learning how to paint a perfect fake found on your body, and no mother wants to pick up their kids and see an image of an injured child—even if it’s fake.