A teacher in a New York school has come under fire for reportedly singling out African-American students and casting them as slaves in a mock "auction" as part of a social studies lesson in March. The incident sparked an investigation by the New York Attorney General's office, which found that the reenactment had a "profoundly negative effect on all of the students present — especially the African-American students."
Attorney General Letitia James, in a statement, said: "Every young person — regardless of race — deserves the chance to attend school free of harassment, bias, and discrimination. Lessons designed to separate children on the basis of race have no place in New York classrooms, or in classrooms throughout this country."
The incident reportedly occurred on March 5, in two fifth-grade social studies classes at The Chapel School, which is a private institution in Westchester County, nearly 15 miles north of midtown Manhattan, stated a CNN report.
The teacher, during the controversial incident, asked all the African-American students in each class to raise their hands and then told them to stand outside the class in the hallway. The teacher then placed imaginary chains on their necks, wrists and ankles. The students were then instructed to walk back into the classroom and line up against the wall, according to reports.
The teacher then conducted a simulated auction of the students in front of the whole class, in an attempt to depict the sale of enslaved Africans to white plantation owners, which occurred in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Reports stated that after the completion of the investigation into the case, the teacher who conducted the lesson was removed from her position.
James, after the probe, released a statement that the school would be required to make significant changes to the way it approaches inclusion and diversity. A new approach would include hiring a chief diversity officer, increasing the representation of minority members in the faculty and committing new financial aid in an attempt to increase diversity in the student body.
The Chapel School, in a statement, said that it has agreed to comply with the required changes in its inclusion approach. The investigation revealed that before the incident, parents had also complained to school administrators about the institution's lack of racial sensitivity and were concerned that the school had not done enough to address the complaints. School Principal Michael Schultz also released a statement: "We accept responsibility for the overall findings, and we are committed to implementing all items outlined by the Attorney General to help us deepen our cultural competence."
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