How would you feel if you discovered your child had been forced to participate in a slave auction in the name of education? If you were a parent of a student at a New Jersey school, you would have quickly discovered the answer.
Tracey Jarmon-Woods, parent of a fifth-grader at Jefferson Elementary School in Maplewood told WABC she was “heartbroken” over the matter, which occurred in another fifth-grade class where a substitute was present while the teacher was on medical leave.
“I had a knot in my stomach,” she says Tuesday, March 21. “There was a slave auction and the little girl was put on the block, in 2017, she was put on the block for sale by her classmates and sold and it was recorded.”
“Anything that could hurt a kid should be avoided,” parent Machli Alexandre tells WABC.
South Orange Maplewood School District, which said the assignment was unauthorized by them, responded to the outcry by sending a letter home to parents, which was obtained by the local news station. It explained the auction was part of an assignment in which students had to give a presentation about colonialism, which was given the OK by parents and the teacher but wasn’t part of the curriculum.
Last week in the same school district, parents demanded an explanation for a South Mountain Elementary School assignment requiring fifth-grade students to create mock slave auction posters. District leaders apologized for the incident.
“When we’re dealing with the Holocaust, we would never put Jewish kids in two lines and say, ‘You go to the left, you go to the right’ as an assignment,” Jarmon-Woods says.
A statement from the school said, “The jovial nature of the video suggests that either there is a lack of understanding about the true barbarity of a slave auction or a lack of awareness of how treating this topic comically is offensive” and noted a social worker would speak to students.