Mom Furious Over Fifth-Grader's Social Studies Assignment On Slavery

| by Karin Sun
Slavery Assignment.Slavery Assignment.

The mother of a fifth-grade student at a Kentucky elementary school has spoken out against an "insensitive" class assignment on slavery that her daughter received.

Rachel Monroe, 12, a student at Meadow View Elementary School in Radcliff, Kentucky, said she was given a worksheet on slavery to complete in her social studies class, WDRB reported on Feb. 1.

The worksheet asked students to put themselves in the shoes of a slave and answer a prompt question.

"Suppose that a plantation owner bought you at a slave auction and sent you to work in the tobacco fields," the question read. 

Students were then asked to choose one of three possible answers as to how they would respond to the hypothetical situation: "I would run away, though I might be caught and punished severely," "I would resist," and "I would work hard and obey the rules in hopes I would be treated well."

Rachel, who is biracial, said the exercise made her uncomfortable.

"I was like very emotional, like somewhat angry and somewhat sadness," she said.

Rachel's mother, Shameka Sells, said the assignment was inappropriate.

"My first reaction was, 'Are they kidding me?' How very insensitive," Sells, a licensed therapist, said. "Let children know what happened. This is how it's happening, these were the repercussions. Not just, 'let's pretend you were sold to work in a cotton field.'"

Hardin County Superintendent Nanette Johnston said the question was taken word for word from teacher materials, but the district decided to remove it after Sells complained about the assignment on social media.

"Putting themself in the place of someone who has experienced that, I think probably socially and emotionally it was hard for a fifth-grader to grasp that," Johnston said. 

Kentucky education standards only require that students in fifth grade learn about the five major areas of U.S. history -- government and civics, culture and society, economics, geography, and historical perspective -- and does not include any specific requirements pertaining to the Civil War or slavery.

Hardin County officials say the subject is an important one that will continue to be taught in fifth grade with different classroom materials.

This is not the first time a school assignment on slavery has stirred controversy.

In 2012, a Michigan mother objected to a similar assignment that her son received in his sixth-grade social studies class at Strong Middle School in Melvindale, USA Today reported at the time.

The assignment reportedly asked students to write a diary or personal memoir describing their imagined lives as slaves.

Sources: WDRB, USA Today / Photo credit: WDRB

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