Teacher auctions black students in Civil War lesson

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The superintendent of Norfolk, Virginia schools has apologized for a controversial classroom lesson.

A fourth grade teacher at Sewells Point Elementary was teaching about the Civil War and auctioned off a group of African American and mixed race students as part of the history lesson.

In an April 6 letter to the students’ parents and guardians, Principal Mary B. Wrushen wrote, “I recently became aware of a history lesson that was presented to the students in Ms. Jessica Boyle’s fourth grade class. Although her actions were well intended to meet the instructional objectives, the activity presented was inappropriate for the students.”

Wrushen said she intends to follow up with the teacher to make sure this never happens again.

“The lesson could have been thought through more carefully, as to not offend her students or put them in an uncomfortable situation,” Wrushen said in the letter.

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The letter also said a guidance counselor is available to discuss any concerns with students concerning the classroom lesson.

Superintendent Dr. Richard Bentley said the school district does not condone this type of lesson.

“It was wrong. It was outside the boundaries of the curriculum and appropriate instructional practices,” Bentley said.

“Kids are definitely going to get offended; parents especially,” said parent Tricia Foster.

“Why are we going back that far and putting kids up on a stage and doing a mock slavery exercise, people being sold and bought like they are animals,” questioned Norfolk resident Easter Atwell-White.

“I feel like she was just trying to demonstrate. I don’t think she meant anything by like trying to hurt anybody,” said parent Tara Woodruff.

Norfolk schools spokeswoman Elizabeth Mather said that appropriate action was taken.

Mather said they could not comment further because it is a personnel matter.