A Maryland teacher with the Mount Hebron High School was placed on an administrative leave for telling students to entertain the class with an amusing song about slavery.
A Howard County high school English teacher was placed on administrative leave last week after assigning students to write a “fun” slavery song as part of a lesson on abolitionist Frederick Douglass — the latest in a string of racially charged incidents in the suburban school system, The Baltimore Sun reports.
Howard County Superintendent Renee Foose said that she put the Mount Hebron High School teacher on leave for four days after the school system learned of the incident.
Foose called the teacher “inexperienced” and the assignment “outrageous.” Foose also said the assignment was not part of the school system’s official curriculum.
“It was offensive and out of scope with what we should be teaching,” Foose told The Baltimore Sun’s editorial board Tuesday.
Md. Teacher Asked Students to Write ‘Fun’ Slave Song During Lesson on Frederick Douglasshttps://t.co/X4tpxhtONI
— JWally (@J962Wally) December 16, 2016
School system officials did not identify the teacher, saying it was a personnel matter. The teacher returned to the classroom Tuesday, when the district concluded its investigation on the ‘fun’ slavery song saga, Foose said.
Foose said the school system is struggling to manage the fallout in schools from recent incidents, including and the “blowback” from county residents and parents who disagreed with the schools system’s response. Foose said she faced criticism for apologizing for the Mount Hebron teacher’s assignment.
“Some thought we shouldn’t have apologized; some thought we were too quick to apologize,” Foose said. “I do not believe you can ever be too quick to apologize.”
Mount Hebron High Principal Andrew Cockley wrote in an email to parents Dec. 7 that the assignment was linked to a lesson on the “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” and students were asked to create a slave song “as a means to learn how language can be used effectively to convey feelings and important messages.”
However, Cockley wrote, “The activity was culturally insensitive and caused discomfort for many students. The teacher has apologized to all students given the assignment and their parents. The assignment has been removed.”
The president of the African American Community Roundtable, Larry Walker, said that he thinks the incident “reflects a culture of insensitivity that is prevalent in our country, not just Howard County,” according to The Root.
The school principal called what the teacher did culturally insensitive. https://t.co/oLlOTV7SfG
— NewsChannel 12 (@wcti12) December 14, 2016
“That’s a huge frustration for those of us who are trying to console the students who are victims of these social media posts because leadership didn’t do the right thing and address this systemically,” Walker added. “It takes the leadership standing up to the community, saying this is not tolerable.”
As the Sun notes, this incident is just the latest in a series of controversial racial issues surrounding the Howard County school system.
Back in November, an Atholon High School student posted a picture of herself in blackface with the caption, “I’m finally a [n–ger].”
In another November incident, a white River Hill High School student posted a photo of herself holding what looked like a handgun with the caption, “I’m boutta shoot some [n–gers].”
“I think this was just a teacher who had a blind spot, and from my investigation, was well intentioned in the lesson,” former school board member Larry Walker told WJZ-TV, Raw Story reports.
A Maryland high school teacher has been disciplined after encouraging students to “have fun” writing a slave song. https://t.co/qbAdePFuvy
— Erica Jones (@EricaEnRoute) December 14, 2016
About 400 students walked out of Oakland Mills High School last week to demonstrate support for a proposed change to district policy that would require administrators to notify students and staff of any threats made by other students.
The nightmare of slavery didn’t make it a funny situation and presently, it’s still isn’t a comical one in anyway. Therefore, white teachers are to know that reminiscing the era of slavery can get quite emotional for us hence; making a mockery of it is surely not the right path to thread at all.