BLACK VOICES

New York Private School Teacher Held Mock Slave Auction: State AG

"This type of problematic instruction won’t be tolerated here in New York," state Attorney General Letitia James said.

A private school in Westchester County, New York, was investigated by the state attorney general’s office amid allegations a teacher conducted a mock slave auction with black students.

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.

The investigation, conducted by the office’s civil rights bureau, found that a teacher allegedly instructed all of the black students in a classroom to stand in a hallway, before she placed imaginary shackles on their necks, wrists and ankles.

“The teacher then instructed the African-American students to line up against the wall, and proceeded to conduct a simulated auction of the African-American students in front of the rest of the class,” the statement said. “These ‘auctions’ reenacted the sale of African-American students to their white counterparts.”

The investigation also revealed that parents said they had previously complained to school administrators about issues of racial sensitivity, diversity and racial inequalities relating to discipline, the press release said.

On Wednesday, James tweeted that the teacher has since been fired from the school. A representative for The Chapel School confirmed to HuffPost that the teacher’s employment was terminated.

An attorney for the teacher denied that students reenacted “the sale of African-American students to their white counterparts,” and said the lessons had been “falsely characterized,” in an email to The Wall Street Journal

A representative for the school told the Journal that The Chapel School’s student population is predominately white, with black students making up 21% of its population, Hispanic students making up 9%, Asian students 6%, and 7% unreported. 

Michael Schultz, the school’s principal, told HuffPost in a statement that the school accepts “responsibility for the overall findings,” of the investigation. 

“The Chapel School took immediate corrective action following the incident of March 5, 2019, which included engaging the support of the Lutheran Counseling Center and other ancillary mental health professionals to address the need for short- and long-term healing, and hiring a third-party investigator to meet with fifth grade families to learn more about the specifics of the incident,” he later added.

Schools across the U.S. continue to be scrutinized for misguided and harmful lessons surrounding slavery, Black History Month and the civil rights movement.

As a result of the investigation, James’ office said The Chapel School agreed to a list of actions to address racial sensitivity, including the hiring of a chief diversity officer subject to the attorney general’s approval, the creation of a plan to increase minority representation among the school’s teaching staff, and a new code of conduct that addresses racial and ethnic discrimination.

Schultz said that the school had reached a “timely resolution” with the attorney general.

“This is a national issue affecting the lives & education of black children & their parents throughout our country,” James wrote in a tweet Friday. “This type of problematic instruction won’t be tolerated here in New York, and it shouldn’t be tolerated in any corner of our nation.”

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