Missouri Teacher Placed on Leave for Asking Students to ‘Set Price for a Slave’

A terrible lapse in judgement has led to a fifth-grade teacher at a St. Louis, Missouri school being placed on a leave of absence. The incident with the unidentified teacher happened during a social studies class at Blades Elementary School, according to KTVI.

In one assignment, students were studying market practices during colonial America when they were asked to set their own price for a slave.

“You own a plantation of farm and there need more workers,” the assignment read. “You begin to get involved in the slave trade industry and have slaves work on your farm…Set your price for a slave. These could be worth a lot.”

Students were also asked to set prices for grains, cows, food, and other resources.

Despite the teacher being placed on leave, president of the NAACP’s St. Louis County branch, John Bowman, said that the punishment does not go far enough and he is asking for more action from the school.

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

Blades Elementary principal Jeremy Booker also sent out a letter to families of the students addressing the assignment.

The assignment was culturally insensitive. I appreciate the parents who notified me of this assignment. I met with the teacher this morning to discuss the purpose of the assignment, the teacher’s interpretation of curriculum standards, and the impact the activity could have on students.

The teacher has expressed significant remorse. The district is continuing to investigate this event. Also, I am working with district leadership to provide all Blades teachers and staff with professional development on cultural bias in the near future. We are working together to ensure all students and families feel valued and respected at Blades Elementary.

In 2019, we should be well beyond instances like this. Unfortunately, they continue to pop up and all we can do is continue to educate those who need to advance from ancient mindsets.

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