A social studies teacher at J.W. Dodd Middle School in Long Island, New York, has apologized for her “insensitive words and actions” after she asked her students to write funny captions for pictures of freed slaves.
She has since been removed from teaching as the school district investigates the incident.
According to a statement from Kishore Kuncham, Freeport Public Schools Superintendent, the teacher instructed her three eighth-grade classes to come up with captions for the photos of Reconstruction-era sharecroppers, and told them to "make it funny," and "don't bore me."
Relatives of the students posted photos of the assignment on social media, sparking outrage from various users.
In a statement released by Freeport Public Schools, the teacher – whose identity has not been released – stated that her words and actions were “insensitive.”
The statement said, "As a teacher and fellow member of this school community, it is my responsibility to exercise the highest degree of care and thought in all of my student and staff interactions. I failed to do so last week, and I fully accept that I must work hard to rebuild trust from my students, colleagues and the community."
Freeport residents had mixed reactions, but the majority expressed outrage.
One told WCBS: "What would make you even say something like that in the first place it’s just unthinkable."
A parent of one of the students in the class stated that the teacher’s actions were based on "poor judgment."
The student told WCBS: “She's a good teacher, she didn't mean it that way. Some people took offense to it and I know how she meant it."
The investigation was launched last Friday after several parents lodged complaints with the school. Kuncham revealed in a statement that the school district was finalizing an agreement with the teacher and her union representatives.
She wrote: "Let me be perfectly clear: Our investigation has determined that this lesson was poorly conceived and executed. Aside from the fact that this is a poor lesson, it is an insensitive trivialization of a deeply painful era for African Americans in this country, and it is unacceptable."