An elementary school in upstate New York has issued an apology after some fourth graders were wrongly taught that enslaved Africans came to America by choice.
A teacher at Jefferson Road Elementary School in Pittsford used worksheets from an online resource called Classroom Nook during a lesson about slavery in January. The local school board has not approved the website as a source for educational materials, according to Rochester TV station WROC.
Michael Pero, superintendent of schools for Pittsford Central School District, issued the apology on Tuesday following a complaint from a parent.
The worksheet was about slavery in colonial America and asked four questions, one of which was: “Why did slaves come to America?”
It provided a fill-in-the-blank answer that read: “As an exchange for the trip to America, African Americans agreed to work for colonists for _____ years, but then were kept as slaves.”
Another question asked what jobs were done by enslaved people. It offered the answers “_____ butter” and “_____ around the house.”
The teacher who used the worksheet has not been named, but was in their first year, according to local media.
Pero’s statement read: “It was brought to our attention this morning that in January, a worksheet was used in a fourth-grade class lesson on slavery during colonial times. The worksheet […] was in no way an accurate depiction of slavery during colonial times and was highly insensitive in tone.
“We immediately met with the staff members involved in this lesson and have taken steps to remedy the situation.”
The statement went on: “This will include a re-teaching of the topic of slavery during colonial times and removing this worksheet from student notebooks while providing them with correct, factual information on this subject. Furthermore, we are working with our fourth-grade teachers across the district to be sure this worksheet is not being used in any other classrooms.”
Pero also thanked the parent who had complained about the worksheet, and apologized to the parents of the entire class.
Newsweek has contacted Classroom Nook and the Pittsford school board for comment.
This is not the first time a lesson about slavery has sparked criticism. A similar worksheet was used at a school in the Webster Central School District in New York earlier this year, prompting a rethink of the curriculum.
Three teachers at a Wisconsin middle school resigned this month after setting sixth graders an assignment asking how they would punish slaves.
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