Several teachers in Wisconsin, US, have been suspended after asking their students to determine the punishments ‘slaves will receive’.
The teachers gave the demeaning History assignment at the start of Black History Month asking sixth-graders at Patrick Marsh Middle School how they’d penalize a slave who had “disrespected his master” by telling him, ‘You are not my master.'”
The teachers said the history lesson aimed to illustrate the politics of ancient Mesopotamia by having the students apply an ancient law called Hammurabi’s Code to various situations, NBC 15 reported. The schoolwork said such a disobedient servant would be executed.
The school eventually apologized after receiving backlash from parents over the controversial coursework, which it has deemed a “gross error in judgment,”
“First day of Black History Month and this was issued to my 6th grader at Patrick Marsh Middle School!!!” read a Facebook post by Dazarrea Ervins, who alerted the Sun Prairie Area School District of the issue.
Parents reacted to the Facebook post, saying they were not pleased with the assignment.
“I couldn’t believe what I was reading,” said Ervins.
The “shocked” mother explained that her son Zayvion brought her the assignment with a “weird look on his face that I’ve never seen before.”
“I can see how they’re learning about this era, but the wording of the question and the statement — it was just wrong,” she said.
Ervins’ son supported his mom’s sentiment, writing: “It made me think of how they would treat me if I was in-person, in class. What would they think of me, and would they treat me like I was an outsider and make me feel scared and unsafe?”
The Sun Prairie Area School District announced that they placed the teachers involved on administrative leave, in line with district policy, and will continue to investigate the incident.
Patrick Marsh Middle School representatives have apologized for the assignment in a statement.
“We are writing today to apologize for a grave error in judgment that occurred during sixth-grade social studies instruction at Patrick Marsh Middle School,” they wrote.
“A small group of our teachers developed and used an activity that was neither racially conscious nor aligned to our district mission, vision, values, curriculum, or district equity statement.”