MEHLVILLE, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- A troubling class assignment landed a Mehlville School District teacher on administrative leave. The question asked students to put a price on slaves.
The principal of Blades Elementary School, Jeremy Booker, responded to parents after a ‘culturally sensitive’ assignment was given to fifth graders last week.
One of the 12 questions read as follows:
“You own a plantation or farm and therefore need more workers. You begin to get involved in the slave trade industry and have slaves work on your farm. Your product to trade is slaves.
Set your price for a slave. _____________ These could be worth a lot.
You may trade for any items you’d like.”
One mother, Angela Walker, said she was shocked to find this among the school work in her son's folder. As the mother of a biracial child, Walker hopes the teacher and school district will learn from this.
"We have to be more culturally sensitive. We can say get over a homework assignment. It's just a homework assignment. That was 100 years ago," Walker said. "It was but it's still someone else's family. Maybe there are people who don't see the wrong in it but we need to be talking about it."
In a letter to parents and staff, Booker said the assignment was completed during class time and students were asked to consider how plantation owners traded for goods and slaves.
The 11 other questions asked about pricing grain, apples, milk, fish and other products.
Booker said he talked to the teacher to discuss the purpose of the assignment.
“The assignment was culturally insensitive,” Booker said. “The teacher has expressed significant remorse.”
The assignment included a reflection section where students were asked about their thoughts on a free market economy and whether they would consider themselves wealthy.
The teacher was placed on administrative leave Monday night.
“The school district is continuing to investigate this event,” Booker said. “I am working with district leadership to provide all Blades teachers and staff with professional development on cultural bias in the near future.”
The NAACP has called for a formal apology from the teacher and superintendent. They also offered to help train school staff.
On Tuesday, the Mehlville superintendent released a statement addressing the classroom activity.
"Racism of any kind, even inadvertently stemming from cultural bias, is wrong and is not who we aspire to be as a school district. I am sorry and disappointed that this happened in our school. There is no quick fix for cultural bias. We will be devoting significant time and resources to train our staff on issues related to cultural competency, implicit bias and equity," Superintendent Chris Gaines said.