Missouri teacher asks students to 'set your price' for slaves in math assignment

A Missouri teacher has reportedly been put on administrative leave after giving students a culturally insensitive math assignment asking them to price slaves.

The Mehlville School District confirmed to CNN that it was investigating the incident, which took place at one of its schools, and that the teacher had been placed on leave.

In a Dec. 8 Facebook post, a person by the name of Lee Hart shared a photo of the assignment in question. Hart writes that a friend’s child brought the fifth-grade worksheet home, calling it “wrong on so many levels.”

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The slip of paper reads: “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.”

Mehlville School District Supt. Chris Gaines addressed the incident in a Dec. 10 statement provided to Global News by Blades Elementary School.

“Last week, students at Blades Elementary participated in an activity related to a colonial marketplace,” Gaines wrote. “Students traded and sold goods during this classroom activity. Unfortunately, slaves were included as goods to be sold.

“Racism of any kind, even inadvertently stemming from cultural bias, is wrong and is not who we aspire to be as a school district,” the statement continued. “I am sorry and disappointed that this happened in our school.”

The statement goes on to describe the “significant time and resources” the school will be putting into training their staff on “issues related to cultural competency, implicit bias and equity.”

John Bowman, president of the St. Louis County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), called the activity unacceptable and sad.

“The position of the NAACP is we need a public apology,” Bowman told Fox2 Now. “There also needs to be some serious and immediate implicit bias, cultural bias, cultural difference training.”

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In a letter sent to parents on Monday, principal Jeremy Booker calls the assignment “culturally insensitive,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

“We are working together to ensure all students and families feel valued and respected at Blades Elementary,” the letter stated.

As yet, it’s unknown when the teacher who assigned the activity will return to teaching duties.

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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