APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - A lesson about slavery in an Appleton high school led to complaints to school leaders and an apology from the superintendent.
As part of an essay assignment in U.S. History, students were asked to consider what qualities they would want in a slave and what instructions they would give their slave.
The essay prompt to help students focus their thoughts to put down on paper asked them to consider such factors as hours, benefits, physical and mental requirements for the job, "relationship with your master", and "relationship with white southerners who don't own you."
Appleton Area School District Superintendent Judy Baseman called the essay prompt "objectionable" and said the material "does not reflect our values as a district and how we want to serve our students and families."
She said the issue was addressed immediately with the teacher, and the district is going to review its curriculum and practices.
"We understand that this essay prompt was and is hurtful and offensive to all of our students," she wrote. (Read the complete statement below.)
Baseman did not identify the teacher or the school.
January 12, 2018
An Appleton high school educator recently created and used an objectionable essay prompt as one part of a US History unit on slavery. This matter has been taken very seriously and is currently being addressed by both school and district administration.
While we cannot discuss the specifics of personnel matters publicly, as soon as we were made aware of this situation, it was immediately addressed with the educator and steps were put into place so that this will not happen again. Although we believe that the educator’s choices were not intended to cause harm, we understand that this essay prompt was and is hurtful and offensive to all of our students.
Teaching about the profound immorality of slavery is a necessary part of our curriculum. We are committed to working with all of our staff members to ensure that our curriculum materials are respectful toward all students. We understand that it is essential that the tone and content of our instructional practices are also sensitive to the topic being discussed.
The district is in the process of reviewing its current curriculum, instructional materials, and practices in this area. To further assist all of our staff in building their expertise and to prevent future concerns, we will also continue to provide district-wide coaching and training in culturally and linguistically responsive practices.
Clearly, our work is not done. We are dedicated to continuing to improve our cultural sensitivity and understanding at all levels across the district.
We sincerely apologize to our families and to the students who were asked to complete this assignment. The material included in the essay prompt does not reflect our values as a district and how we want to serve our students and families. The Appleton Area School District is committed to providing a safe and welcoming school environment for all students.