'Middle Passage' Shown To Nine-Year-Olds: Educational Or Too Graphic?

02/23/2011 12:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"Middle Passage" is a film that doesn't pull any punches.

The HBO-produced feature, directed by French film-maker Guy Deslauriers and starring Djimon Hounsou, describes in graphic detail the voyage of African slaves across the Atlantic to the New World. The brutal conditions aboard slave ships are tackled head-on; suicide and child rape are among the horrors depicted and discussed.

So when a teacher in Chicago's north suburbs showed the film to her fourth-grade students, some parents were not pleased.

"As a parent and father I was destroyed, in the sense that I felt incapacitated in protecting my child," said Patrick Livney, father of nine-year-old Becca, a student at the Greeley School in Winnetka where the film was shown. "The concept of a rape, suicide, depression at the age of 9 years old is a sad commentary," he said, according to CBS.

TribLocal spoke with Mark Friedman, interim co-superintendent of Winnetka schools. He said that officials were still investigating the matter, but that the district is taking concerns seriously.

The teacher apparently brought the film from home, which Friedman says was not against district policy. "We always say you need to use your judgment," he said.

But after a meeting yesterday, Winnetka School District 36 changed that policy. Now, teachers may only bring in G-rated supplemental materials, unless they seek administrative approval.

Still, not all parents were upset about the film's screening. From a harshly sarcastic email by Jen McQuet, a Winnetka parent, published in TribLocal:

About 20 million Africans were taken from homes and families and sold into slavery to work plantations in North and South America. More than half died. But the real tragedy, really and seriously, is that a privileged little girl from Winnetka had to see some scary pictures of it. That's serious, long-lasting damage.

What do you think?