The Sun Prairie School District has apologized for a sixth grade social studies lesson that asked students how they would punish slaves who spoke up for themselves.
The lesson took place on February 1, the first day of Black History Month, and drew immediate backlash on social media.
The question, captured in a screenshot by several parents, asks students to imagine they are speaking to a slave: “This slave has disrespected his master by telling him, ‘You are not my master!’ How do you punish this slave?”
In an email to families, superintendent Brad Saron apologized for a “grave error in judgement.”
“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,” he wrote.
Saron did not say in what context the lesson was given. He did say it wasn’t part of district-approved curriculum, and that the teachers involved have been placed on administrative leave.
“This incident is a fracture in our system to support Every Child, Every Day,” he wrote. “We deeply regret that this lesson took place, and we also recognize that this was a breakdown in our curricular processes and our district-wide focus on equity. In addition to immediately addressing this situation, it is important that we commit to changing our curriculum and professional development for all staff. To that end, we will work to immediately reconvene our social studies curriculum review committee for an intensive review of our social studies teaching practices with the lens of racial trauma and curriculum violence.”
Saron wrote that the district would also schedule listening sessions and work with Black community leaders “to work toward community healing.”
“It goes without saying of how unacceptable this assignment is/was,” said school board member Marilyn Peebles Ruffin in an email to Madison365.