A Staunton, Va., mom is calling for action after her son, who is in the sixth grade at Shelburne Middle School, was caught up in a controversial history lesson, WHSV reports.
Tamika Derozen said that her son’s class was learning about the Louisiana Purchase when “the teacher asked all of the African-American students to come to the front of the classroom.”
Derozen said that her son told her the black students were asked to act like slaves and pretend to pick cotton and dig for coal for a skit. The boy said that a few students refused.
“He said, ‘Mom, I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to walk out of the class, but I didn’t want to get in trouble,’” Derozen said.
The teacher also reportedly asked for a few white students to participate and play the part of noblemen.
“Why wouldn’t she’ve asked for volunteers or why would she not have included any student of any race to just go up in front of the class and play pretend?” Derozen said to the news station.
Upset, the mother naturally contacted the school, and the principal offered her apologies.
“The principal apologized. She explained to me that she told the teacher you can’t single out a group of children based on their race,” Derozen said, adding that the principal explained that the teacher was attempting to focus on a slave rebellion during the time period.
However, the situation did not end there. The teacher apparently felt some kind of way about the reprimand and decided to take it up with the students.
Derozen said that her son walked back into class to find an image from the miniseries Roots on the projector. The teacher allegedly asked students whether it would make “sense” for a white actor to play a slave.
“She went on to say, ‘Exactly my point. For those of you that I offended, I apologize. But I want you to understand my reason for calling you up as African Americans is because you better fit the role as a slave,’” Derozen said. “She still wanted to make herself right. You can’t right your wrong.”
That was one step too far for Derozen. After the first incident, she had already planned to attend a meeting with a teacher, but now she has contacted the NAACP and is encouraging other parents with kids in the class to join her.
According to WHSV, Staunton City Schools Superintendent Linda Reviea sent out the following statement regarding the incident:
We were just recently made aware of the incident at Shelburne Middle School and are investigating the information we received. The matter will be handled swiftly and fairly according with School Board policy.
If such behavior occurred, it is grossly inappropriate, insensitive and contradictory to the values of our school division and will not be tolerated. At all times we expect our teachers and staff to be positive role models and demonstrate sound judgment.
I want to emphasize that in no way does Staunton City Schools condone or encourage instruction that deliberately singles out a person or group because of race and subjects them to disparagement or humiliation.
Read more at WHSV.