New York Attorney General Letitia James, the first black woman to be elected to statewide office in New York, announced Wednesday that her office received a report alleging that a teacher at The Chapel School in Bronxville simulated a “slave auction” with black students in two fifth-grade social studies classes in March.
“This type of problematic instruction won’t be tolerated here in New York,” Attorney General Letitia James said.
The 4th grade teacher in a Watertown, New York school district has been placed on administrative leave after having white students bid on black classmates in a mock slave auction.
The district declined to identify the teacher,but claims she/he has been placed on leave during a district investigation launched after parents complained that she “exercised poor judgment in teaching a recent lesson.”
A mother of one the students had this to say…
“He and another Black child were put up in the middle of the class and told they were now slaves. The teacher then started the ‘bidding’ by assigning prices to the Caucasian students. After the winning bid was placed, my son was then told how slaves would take the slave owners last name and what he was to call the slave owner by. Then my son and the other ‘slave’ were instructed to call the Caucasian child by ‘master’ then the child’s last name.”
The district said it will have no further comment until the investigation has been completed.
Families of students at the school said they are sickened and surprised…
“I was taken aback, shocked actually to think that a school would actually do something like this in today’s day and age. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous,” said David Ackley, father of a 4th grade student.
“I have a grandson that’s black and if it was him that was sold as a slave, I would’ve been right to school. My feelings on it… I do believe that the teacher should be fired,” said Dawn Finley, a grandmother of students.
The teacher reportedly asked all of the Black students in each class to raise their hands, then told them to go stand in the hallway, where the teacher placed imaginary chains on their necks, wrists and ankles. Those students were then instructed to walk back into the classroom and line up against the wall.
The teacher then conducted a mock auction of the students in front of the rest of the class, in a poor attempt to depict the sale of enslaved Africans to white plantation owners that happened in recent centuries.
Surprisingly, this is not a one off incident. There have been reports of similar mock slave auctions in schools around the nation.
The teacher was subsequently fired and the Chapel School in Bronxville agreed to hire a diversity officer after the state attorney general’s office investigated the matter.
The investigation found that the reenactment had a “profoundly negative effect on all of the students present… especially the African-American students.”
“Every young person — regardless of race — deserves the chance to attend school free of harassment, bias, and discrimination,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “Lessons designed to separate children on the basis of race have no place in New York classrooms, or in classrooms throughout this country.”