Administrators at a Lutheran school here apologized Wednesday for a fourth-grade homework assignment that asked pupils to write “3 ‘good’ reasons for slavery and 3 bad reasons.”
Trameka Brown-Berry shared the assignment Tuesday on Facebook asking if others found it offensive. Her son, Jerome Berry, is a fourth-grader at Our Redeemer Lutheran School.
The post set off a cry from Facebook respondents and a community leader that the assignment was insensitive and offensive.
In a Jan. 10 telephone interview, school administrator Jim Van Dellen said the homework was an “unintentionally, poorly worded assignment” and school administrators are “in active conversations with parents.”
The school in this suburb west of Milwaukee sent letters of apology to the families of its 240 students through email. The kindergarten through eighth-grade school does not use state vouchers, Van Dellen said.
In a later post, Brown-Berry said Van Dellen promptly addressed her concerns and apologized right away.
H. Nelson Goodson, administrator of Hispanic News Network U.S.A., was one of the people alarmed after reading about the assignment on Facebook. During a telephone interview, he questioned why a teacher would pose such a question to young learners.
“It was very insensitive for the teacher to do that,” Goodson said. “The bigotry and anti-diversity feelings in this country lead people to believe it’s OK to act like that.
Brown-Berry did the right thing in posting the homework assignment, he said.
Jerome Berry wrote in his homework, “I feel there is no good reason for slavery.”
Van Dellen and Andrew Steinke, principal senior pastor of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, responded in a letter:
On behalf of Our Redeemer Lutheran School, we sincerely apologize for the fact that an assignment given to a fourth-grade class yesterday was not clearly explained to students and their parents.
The result was a strong call to action to address the situation. We understand that, as presented, the words used showed a lack of sensitivity and were offensive.The purpose of the assignment was not, in any way, to have students argue that ANY slavery is acceptable — a concept that goes against our core values and beliefs about the equality and worth of people of all races. …
This particular assignment is no longer a part of our curriculum and we are committed to working with our families and our teachers.
Brown-Berry said of the incident: “Out of a very negative situation, we were able to take (action) to resolve this issue. That is so beautiful. Thank you.”