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Madison teacher on leave after planned Boston Tea Party reenactment

The Boston Tea Party of 1773, as depicted in an old Engraving.
The Boston Tea Party of 1773, as depicted in an old Engraving.(AP Photo)
Published: Dec. 14, 2021 at 5:04 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 14, 2021 at 10:26 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A Jefferson Middle School teacher was placed on administrative leave after a planned reenactment of the Boston Tea Party was determined to be offensive.

According to the Madison Metropolitan School District, the school principal stopped the history lesson from happening after determining it was “not consistent with the district’s vision, commitment to equity, cultural responsiveness, and was outside the scope of the district curriculum.”

In a statement, MMSD explained the teacher, whose name was not released, was placed on administrative leave, as per district policy, until officials complete an internal review of the incident. Administrators also plan to review curricular units with staff to ensure that lessons are in line with MMSD expectations.

The Boston Tea Party happened in 1773 as colonists protested British taxation policies, and particularly the Tea Act, by sneaking onto ships and dumping hundreds of crates of tea into the Boston harbor. History has recorded some of the demonstrators who participated wore Native American outfits during the protests.

According to the district, the assignment “included students assuming the identity of a variety of “characters” from the colonial time period. Students were to assume stereotypical roles which brought racialized harm.”

MMSD’s description did not go too deep into the details of the assignment or the elements that were deemed offensive by the district. Its statement added that some students were harmed during the planning of the reenactment and said they “deserve better.”

“As a school district, this serves as a stark reminder there is much more work to be done in creating diverse spaces where scholars can learn acceptance and feel a sense of belonging,” the statement continued.

Full MMSD statement:

Recently, Jefferson Middle School students reported their teacher’s planned “reenactment” of the Colonial Tea Party, as part of their history lesson materials, included aspects which were offensive.

After a preliminary review of the materials, the school principal quickly determined the assignment was not consistent with the district’s vision, commitment to equity, cultural responsiveness and was outside the scope of district curriculum. The assignment was stopped prior to the reenactment, and per district protocol, the teacher has been placed on administrative leave pending a more in-depth internal review.

The initial review of the assignment found it included students assuming the identity of a variety of “characters” from the colonial time period. Students were to assume stereotypical roles which brought racialized harm.

The district recognizes how some Jefferson students were harmed during the planning process of this reenactment, and acknowledge they deserve better. Jefferson leadership will be conducting a full review of curricular units with staff to ensure the lessons and content being taught meet district expectations.

As a school district, this serves as a stark reminder there is much more work to be done in creating diverse spaces where scholars can learn acceptance and feel a sense of belonging. MMSD is committed to continuing our journey to become an inclusive and anti-racist school district where every student is empowered to make meaningful contributions to the world.

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