An investigation is underway and a 4th-grade teacher in the Watertown School District has been placed on administrative leave. The district is not detailing what prompted this move but parents who contacted CNYCentral are claiming a classroom exercise involved fourth-grade students recreating a slave auction in class.
One mother told CNYCentral her son, age 10 and an African-American, had to pretend to be a slave during a mock slave auction in class Tuesday and then call the winning bidder “master.”
Another mother, who wants to remain anonymous, claims that her daughter says the teacher did not ask for volunteers and picked her daughter and a boy, both Black students, to be the slaves.
She added that the teacher allegedly picked two other children, of a different race, to be the slave owners.
The mother said the whole incident made her daughter uncomfortable but says she was afraid to come forward because she thought she would get in trouble. She questions why anyone would think this was a good idea, but she says at the very least, the teacher should have run the idea past parents.
“I don’t think that that’s ok,” the girl’s mother said. “I don’t think that it was appropriate for her to do that. I mean, even if she thought maybe this would be a great idea, I think she should have gotten permission from parents first.”
Others are posting on the Watertown School District’s Facebook Page with what they claim to know about the incident and their reaction to it.
Note: We have removed the names and profile pictures so as not to unknowingly identify any students.
The school district’s only comments as of Thursday afternoon were this brief statement released to the media:
The Watertown City School District has received complaints from parents that a fourth grade teacher exercised poor judgment in teaching a recent lesson. The teacher has been placed on administrative leave pending a full investigation into the matter. The school district will not be providing additional comments until the investigation has been completed.
The District has not answered any of our questions about this incident and claims being made by parents or publicly on social media.
“Not only was he and another student put up for bid but were instructed to call the winning bidders by master,” one woman who claims to be the mother of a student in that class wrote us in an email. “ He no longer wants to go to school, has stated that he didn’t want to be Black anymore, and can feel a difference in class since I have called the principal.
We are withholding the mother’s name at her request.
CNYCentral reached out to the New York Attorney General about the incident who say that they are aware of it and are assessing the situation.
Earlier this week, the A.G. released a report confirming that another mock slave auction took place at the Chapel School in Westchester County.
Following an investigation, the A.G. says the school has agreed to make changes regarding lesson plans about slavery.
This article originally appeared in CNYCentral.