A homework assignment given to students at a Milwaukee area elementary school asked children to provide three “good reasons” for slavery, prompting outrage and a call to the school from at least one parent.
Trameka Brown-Berry, a graduate student in nursing at Alverno College, posted on Facebook, “Does anyone else find my fourth-grader’s homework offensive?” with a picture of her son Jerome’s assignment. Thousands of people shared the photo and commented.
The social studies homework read, “Give 3 ‘good’ reasons for slavery and 3 bad reasons.” It’s unclear what Brown-Berry’s teacher meant by the quotation marks.
The school where the assignment was given to students, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and School, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The school writes on its website that it “exists to provide a Christ-centered quality education to students in grades 3K – 8.“
In a statement to local TV station WESH, the school said, “We understand that, as presented, the words used showed a lack of sensitivity and were offensive. The purpose of the assignment was not, in any way, to have students argue that any slavery is acceptable — a concept that goes against our core values and beliefs about the equality and worth of people of all races.”
On his homework assignment, Jerome responded to the slavery question, “I feel there is no good reason for slavery that’s why I did not write.”
The bad reasons for slavery he wrote, were “biting them,” separating family members, and making others do work that’s “your job.”
He finished the assignment with the note, “I am proud to be black because we are strong and brave.”
Trameka Brown-Berry later said on Facebook that she had spoken to the school principal about the assignment and made five requests: a verbal apology to her son and others in the class, a formal apology sent to parents, that the assignment be removed from current and future curriculum, that teachers communicate with parents when they’re broaching sensitive topics, and that the school’s staff be trained in cultural competency. The principal agreed to all of her appeals, she said.
Brown-Berry added that the teacher apologized to the class and that the principal was sending a formal apology letter to the school’s entire student body.
“The moral of the story is, the only way to teach our kids to stand up for their rights and respect is to model it,” she wrote. “With all of your support I was able to give my child a personal life lesson about how change starts with you.”