An African-American parent of a student at Whitney High School in Cerritos, California, recently took to Facebook to complain about a lesson plan to re-enact slavery, requiring her son’s hands to be duct taped together.
Not only that, the all-White history department emailed eighth-grade parents to let them know staff would pretend to be slave ship captains, their children lined up shoulder-to-shoulder on the floor, and then forced to watch Roots, the report says.
Teachers asked parents to not warn students about the lesson, as the element of surprise would really make the simulation more realistic. But an African-American parent, Shardé Carrington, forbade her son to participate in the re-enactment, and spoke with administrators, the Post writes.
She was referred to history department chairman Derek Jeans at the school, where Black students make up 2 percent of the population, or a total of 19 out of 1,011, the news outlet writes.
Jeans explained to Carrington that the lesson was not designed to demean anyone, noting that the lesson was not at all designed for Carrington’s son, but meant to immerse non-Black students into the “harrowing world that your ancestors suffered through,“ the report says. Further, Jeans went on to suggest that perhaps eighth grade response essays would “make [Carrington] understand the positive impact that it has…” The lesson had been taught for 10 years, Jeans wrote, to “almost universal appreciation.”
Jeans said the plan came from a “nationally recognized” supplier of curriculum, but he didn’t name the source. While ridiculous lesson plans abound on the Internet, there are also resources for teachers who may have difficulty approaching a topic that could shift White students’ perceptions of their own families’ legacies. PBS and Teaching Tolerance are just two suppliers of culturally sensitive lesson plans.
Carrington made her communication with school officials public on Facebook Monday. She wrote, “I knew that I didn’t have the time to stop it from occurring this school year, but believe with the power of social media I have a chance to end it for future students.”