A private school teacher in Bronxville, New York, has been placed on leave following outrage over a class history lesson parents have called racist and “deeply insensitive.”
Now, the New York state attorney general is getting involved.
According to PIX 11, administrators at The Chapel School in Bronxville called emergency meetings with parents last Thursday after white students were made to reenact history by bidding on their Black classmates as part of a mock slave auction during a fifth-grade social studies class. Vernex Harding said her son, who is Black, was one of the students singled out by teacher Rebecca Antinozzi for the controversial lesson.
“I’m getting teary-eyed about it because it’s, like, how could somebody do this to my son,” Harding told the news station.
Recalling the incident, Harding said her son told her he was one of three African-American students led into the hall where their teacher pretended to placed “imaginary chains along our necks and on our wrists, … and shackles on our ankles.” When they returned to class, their white peers posed as wealthy slaveholders and were encouraged to begin bidding on them.
“I’m shocked and infuriated that this happened to my son,” Harding, who works as an educational administrator at another school,” told the New York Daily News. “I’m very shaken. My son was humiliated.”
The questionable lesson, which occurred Tuesday, has since rocked the Westchester school community and sparked an investigation by school leaders.
In an email blast, Principal Michael Schultz denounced the social studies lesson as “racially insensitive and hurtful.” He confirmed that Antinozzi has been removed from the classroom pending the outcome of their investigation.
State Attorney General Letitia James said her office was also aware of the “troubling” incident.
“The reports of racist ‘lessons’ by a teacher at The Chapel School are deeply troubling,” James said in a statement. “My office is monitoring this matter closely.”
Joshua Kimerling, a lawyer representing Antinozzi, has rushed to the teacher’s defense, insisting details about the class history lesson were incorrect and had been taken out of context.
“The portrayal of the history lesson that has been reported is inaccurate, out of context, contains false facts and ignores the overwhelming support of Ms. Antinozzi from dozens of parents at the school,” Kimerling argued. “Our client loves her students and is beloved by them.”
He continued: “To the extent anyone took offense to a small portion of the overall lesson that day that was used solely to emphasize the tragic injustice of slavery, it certainly was never intended.”
The “mock” slave auction is just the latest in a slew of poor judgment calls by teachers as it pertains to school lessons on African-American history. Last month, teachers at a South Carolina elementary school faced backlash after students were filmed picking cotton and singing “slave songs” during a class field trip meant to educate students about the Great Depression.
Equally intense outrage ensued earlier this month after a class lesson on the history of the “n-word” and why its offensive devolved into chaos when a handful of white students used the opportunity to spew the racist slur during class.
The Chapel School, founded in 1947, is located in an affluent area of the Bronxville neighborhood. Tuition at the school ranges from “$5,000-$13,900,” according to the New York Daily News. The pricey private school has reportedly had racial issues in the past, including reports of Black students being unfairly disciplined.
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