An 11-year-old girl's artwork is at the center of a debate at a Michigan school after the child's mother said her daughter was unjustly targeted due to a misinterpretation of the drawing.
In a now-viral TikTok, Sierra Carter explained that she was contacted by her daughter's 5th grade teacher at the elementary school in the Hanover-Horton School District, saying "a little boy had come up to her and made her aware that he thought my daughter drew boy parts on her pig project."
Carter said, when asked, her daughter told the teacher the drawing was actually of a bow tie, but the project was ultimately taken and given to the school's vice principal.
Later, when dropping her daughter off the following week, Carter asked to see the drawing her daughter created.
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"As soon as I look at it I'm like 'Are you freaking kidding me? It's a freaking bow tie,'" Carter said in her video, which has since been seen over 600,000 times on the social media site.
"I'm sorry my daughter's no Monet, but to her, a bow tie is a bow and a tie," Carter continued. "And if another kid happened to look at it and think that it was something else that sounds like a he problem and not a she problem."
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The school said it was not punishing Carter's daughter, but Carter said she was told a copy of the artwork would be kept "in case other instances come up."
In a statement to NBC 5, the district's superintendent, John Denney, noted that there are "two sides to this story" and that "nothing has been placed in any student's school records related to this matter."
"In this case, a student appropriately brought concerns to the attention of our staff," Denney said. "In response, our staff handled the situation with compassion and discretion. Staff contacted the student’s parents to discuss the situation. No student was singled out or ostracized. Every effort was made to protect the privacy and dignity of all students."
In a series of follow-up TikToks, Carter said she met with Denney and other school leadership seeking an apology and for no copies of the artwork to be left in her daughter's file.
She shared a copy of an email from Denney, in which he states that while her child's file has no reference to the situation in it, he does not feel it would be "appropriate... to dispose of the artifacts."
"As it stands right now, they are basically notes that can be referred back to if there are any significant issues through the end of the year," Denney's email stated.
He added that it is a "common process for a teacher and/or administrator to do with students."
"It is our way of giving a bit of a break while still having something to accurately look back on if a similar thing occurs later in the year," the email read. "In my opinion, it would not be appropriate for the office to do anything differently with the items they are keeping track of."
But Carter said "there's nothing that she did wrong to bring up and hold against her."
She believes the situation was mishandled and should have been corrected the moment her daughter informed them that the drawing was of a bow tie.
"It could have been shut down and it could have been stopped, but it was not," she said.