Glendale father stunned by daughter's 3rd grade art project resembling swastikas

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A Glendale father is stunned by what his daughter was asked to draw in her art class.

“I asked her about these symbols and she didn't remember what these meant,” said Ralph Lawson.

Lawson's daughter, Alyssa, 8, was given a symbol to draw in her art class at Avondale Elementary School.

The father said his daughter's teacher told him the symbol, called a Whirling Log and resembling a swastika, is from Native American culture, something the students are learning.

“This age group in elementary school is not fully ready to understand this. This is something in junior high or high school that prior to presenting it in an art class, they would have a full description of the Holocaust and World War II and the meaning behind the Nazi symbol,” said Lawson.

Even though the teacher gave a brief description of how the Whirling Log looks like the Nazi symbol, it's not enough for Lawson.

Alyssa has Asperger's, a high-functioning form of autism.

The father said she loves all things art.

“Drawing and doodling is a big thing. That adds to my concern. All kids 8,9,10 want to draw symbols they've seen and learned about and not always have an understanding what they mean,” said Lawson.

Debra Krol with the Heard Museum in Phoenix showed 3TV baskets and pottery with the Whirling Log on it.
“The small group of evil doers did pervert the symbol for awhile. There are some native people that have decided because of the negative connotation not to use it in their art. Other artists like the Navajo do use it because it is part of their culture and history,” said Krol.

Alyssa’s father is all for teaching students about this symbol and both of its meaning at a later age.

“I think in elementary school it should be completely removed. I’m certainly open to it at a later age.  Introducing it when a student is conscious of drawing this symbol on a back pack and the awareness and ramifications it could have. Elementary school is not a place to be introduced.”

No one was available to talk on camera from Alyssa's school.

Instead, a statement was issued by a Deer Valley District spokesperson:

“The assigned art project falls under Deer Valley District’s curriculum standards as well as the Arizona state standards as an appropriate grade-level assignment. The assignment (History and Cultures) in Art – grade 3 helps students to recognize the use and value of images, symbols, motifs and themes distinguishing the art of specific cultures, examine how the Native Americans utilized historical and current events as content for creating works of art, create a work of art inspired by an indigenous people’s traditional craft, and explore ideas and beliefs of various cultures as content for creating works of art.