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Wisconsin teachers resign after investigation of middle school slavery lesson

The three middle school teachers were first put on leave after they gave students an assignment which asked them how they would punish a slave

The three middle school teachers were first put on leave after they gave students an assignment which asked them how’d they punish a slave.
Three Wisconsin middle school teachers have resigned after an investigation found that they’d collaborated on a social studies assignment that asked students how they would punish a slave.
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Three Wisconsin middle school teachers have resigned after an investigation found that they’d collaborated on a social studies assignment that asked students how they would punish a slave.

“After discussions with the three teachers and their representatives, the three teachers were permitted to resign through voluntary separation agreements wherein the teachers remain on paid leave for the remainder of this school year and will not be working for the district in the future,” said an independent report done on behalf of Sun Prairie School District, the Wisconsin State Journal reported Wednesday.

What was in the slavery assignment?

In February, sixth graders at Patrick Marsh Middle School — part of Sun Prairie School District, about 15 miles northeast of Madison — were asked in an assignment how they would respond to a particular situation while using Hammurabi’s Code, or written laws from Mesopotamia, reported the Wisconsin State Journal.

  • “A slave stands before you. This slave has disrespected his master by telling him, ‘You are not my master!’ How will you punish this slave?” the assignment asks, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
  • The assignment “included other offensive questions,” the school district’s report said, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

The response

A parent of a student first reported the assignment to the teachers and the principal in February and asked that the lesson be removed, Madison.com reported. The principal instructed the teachers to take down the social studies assignment and “the teachers were placed on leave,” according to Madison.com.

  • “We need to apologize,” said school Superintendent Brad Saron, reported Madison’s WMTV 15. The assignment incident “does not represent the district’s commitments to our students and our families, or our commitments to racial equity.”
  • “Moving forward, Saron said the district is hiring a director of systemic equity, and the social studies curriculum will be reviewed. He also said the district will seek an equity assessment and audit to find places where the district can do better, and engage in ‘community-wide healing discussions.’” WMTV 15 reported.

An outside law firm conducted the investigation and had the following to say about it’s findings:

  • “Upon reflection, all three teachers agreed that the questions were inappropriate and never should have been given. They were all remorseful and apologetic for their error in judgment,” said Lori Lubinsky, the lead attorney of the investigation, Madison’s WMTV 15 reported.
  • “They could not, to my satisfaction, explain adequately why they didn’t come to that conclusion before the lesson was given. They just didn’t understand and appreciate and evaluate how the questions could be interpreted by others before they gave the lesson,” Lubinsky added, according to WMTV 15.
  • The investigation found that the lesson was created “two or three years ago” and the teachers “‘acknowledged that it appeared to be identical’ to a $4 lesson from Teachers Pay Teachers, a website where educators can buy and sell educational materials,” reported the Wisconsin State Journal.

A spokesperson for Teachers Pay Teachers said in an email to Deseret News on Thursday:

  • “This offensive resource is antithetical to TpT’s values and has no place in schools or on our platform.”
  • “As soon as we were made aware of this content, we removed it from our platform. We unequivocally stand against anything that may cause trauma or further the marginalization of people of color,” the spokesperson added.