A Virginia mother said a teacher at her son’s middle school asked African-American students to pretend to be slaves during a history lesson while white children played the part of noblemen.
For a skit on the Louisiana Purchase at Shelburne Middle School in Staunton last week, black students were asked to pretend to pick cotton and dig coal, Tamika Derozen’s son told her.
“He said, ‘Mom, I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to walk out of the class, but I didn’t want to get in trouble,’” Derozen told WHSV, the local ABC station.
She said the principal apologized after hearing her complaint. But the teacher later showed the children a clip from the miniseries “Roots,” which was about slavery, and said it wouldn’t make sense for white actors to play the slaves, Derozen told the station.
The school district said on its website that it was investigating and that the matter would be handled “swiftly.”
“If such behavior occurred, it is grossly inappropriate, insensitive and contradictory to the values of our school division and will not be tolerated,” the statement from Staunton City Schools superintendent Linda G. Reviea said. “At all times we expect our teachers and staff to be positive role models and demonstrate sound judgment.”
Reviea added that the district did not “condone or encourage instruction that deliberately singles out a person or group because of race and subjects them to disparagement or humiliation.”
The News Leader said school board members would not comment on the incident.