Parents outraged after students forced to make slave auction posters for school assignment
A New Jersey school has removed posters for slave auctions created by its fifth graders after parents began sounding off over the class project.
Students attending the South Mountain Elementary School in South Orange, New Jersey, were instructed by teachers to create a "colorful poster advertising an event that might occur" specific to the American Colonial period. In a list of potential ideas to model their assignments after, "a poster for a lecture, speech, protest or slave auction" were noted as examples.
According to South Orange Patch, posters illustrating "wanted" for slaves were displayed across throughout the elementary school hallway.
See some of the student's posters:
"In a curriculum that lacks representation for students of color, it breaks my heart that these will be the images that young black and brown kids see of people with their skin color," parent Jamil Karriem wrote Tuesday on Facebook, urging others to press the school administration regarding the controversial assignment. "It is completely lost on me how this project could be an effective way to teach any student in any age group about American history."
But the South Orange-Maplewood Superintendent John Ramos defended the school project in letter to parents on Wednesday, justifying the school's decision to provide students with more comprehensive understanding of the "uglier parts" of Colonial America.
"One of the anti-bias experts highlighted the fact that schools all over our country often skip over the more painful aspects of American History, and that we need to do a better job of acknowledging the uglier parts of our past, so that children learn the full story," Ramos stated in the letter.
After receiving more backlash regarding the assignment, the posters were taken down and Ramos apologized to parents offended by the images.
"We completely understand how disturbing these images are, and why parents were upset. This was exacerbated by the fact that the displays did not include an explanation of the assignment or its learning objectives," he wrote.
Ramos also noted that there is more work to be done.
"We have much more, intensely difficult and self-reflective, work to do as we examine and correct decades of individual and institutional, explicit and implicit bias. As a community, we must not only recognize the resulting manifestations and harm, but work together with honesty and diligence towards solutions."