A school district in Tennessee is apologizing for an “inappropriate” homework assignment that prompted students to pretend that their families owned slaves.
The handwritten assignment that touched on the topics of slavery, immigration and child labor was given to eighth graders at Sunset Middle School in Brentwood, Tenn. on Wednesday — including Dan Fountain’s 13-year-old sister, who told her brother that it made her feel uncomfortable.
When looking at the assignment himself, he saw the prompt that read, “Your family owns slaves. Create a list of expectations for your family’s slaves.”
What are y’alls a thoughts on my sisters HW?🤔 pic.twitter.com/HLp1NJdJtg
— Danny Boy (@danholfountain) February 28, 2019
“I wanted some outside opinions on the assignment to make sure I wasn’t reaching or misguided in my thoughts about the assignment,” Fountain tells Yahoo Lifestyle about posting the assignment to Twitter. “Amongst many people, the general feeling of outrage and disgust was very prevalent, and that was across multiple races.”
Fountain’s mother, as well as other parents, got a look at the assignment before logging their complaints with the school. Just hours later, on Thursday morning, an email was sent out from the teachers who created the “insensitive” assignment, apologizing for it.
“This week, we gave our students an assignment we recognize was inappropriate. We have pulled the assignment, and no grade will be given,” eighth grade teachers Susan Hooper and Kim Best wrote in the email, a copy of which was provided by the school to Yahoo Lifestyle. “We have and will be apologizing to our students. It was never our intention to hurt any of our students. The assignment was insensitive, and it did not promote Sunset Middle’s goal of an inclusive environment. Please accept our sincere apologies.”
Another email, also provided to Yahoo Lifestyle, was sent by Sunset Middle School Principal Tim Brown. It read:
“I am writing to apologize to our school community for an assignment made in 8th grade Social Studies this week. The assignment asked students to imagine that their families owned slaves and to develop a list of expectations for such. I recognize this assignment was inappropriate, and steps are being taken to rectify this situation. The assignment has been pulled from the 8th grade Social Studies classes. I know that a mistake was made by giving students this assignment.
“My hope is to nurture a safe learning environment where all students feel valued, respected, and included, and we will continue to work toward that. I will continue to have meaningful conversations with my faculty around creating assignments that consider perspectives from all backgrounds. I am very remorseful that this situation occurred.”
Williamson County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney also addressed the controversy, writing, “The assignment was wholly inappropriate and doesn’t reflect our district’s commitment to treat all students with dignity and respect.”
Looney went on to ensure parents that staff members have been receiving professional training this year, through which they’re expected to gain more knowledge on cultural awareness.
“Please know, we are absolutely committed to ensuring all of our students feel welcome, wanted and worthwhile,” his note concluded.
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