Missouri Teacher Placed On Leave After Assignment Asking Fifth-Graders to Decide Prices for Slaves

A Missouri school has placed a teacher on leave after children at an elementary school were asked in an assignment to decide how much they'd charge for slaves.

Fifth grade students at Blades Elementary School in Oakville, Missouri, were given the assignment for a social studies class, Fox 2 reported. It sparked a backlash after part of it was posted on social media on Sunday—prompting the Melhville School District to investigate.

On Monday, the school's principal sent a letter home to parents saying the assignment was "cultutally insensitive" and that the teacher who created the assignment expressed "significant remorse."

A friend of mine’s child brought this home from Blades Elementary School, 5th grade. It is so wrong on so many...

Posted by Lee Hart on Sunday, December 8, 2019

Shortly afterwards, the school announced the teacher had been placed on administrative leave, KSDK reported.

The controversial assignment was posted on Facebook by Lee Jones, who wrote that a friend's child had brought it home. "It is so wrong on so many levels," she added in a caption.

"You own a plantation or farm and therefore need more workers. You begin to get involved in the slave trade industry and have slaves work on your farm. Your product to trade is slaves," the assignment reads.

It then asks students to set a price for a slave, adding: "These could be worth a lot. You may trade for any items you like." According to Fox 2, the rest of the assignment was about trading commodities such as grains, lumber and fish.

In the letter sent to parents, Blades Elementary School principal Jeremy Booker said the assignment "attempted to address market practices." He added: "The assignment was culturally insensitive. I appreciate the parents who notified me of this assignment."

He said he met with the teacher to discuss the assignment. "The teacher has expressed significant remorse," he added. Booker said he is working with the school district to provide teachers and staff at the school with cultural bias training "in the near future."

"We are working together to ensure all students and families feel valued and respected at Blades Elementary," he added.

In another letter sent to staff and parents on Tuesday and provided to Newsweek, Mehlville School District's Superintendent Chris Gaines said: "Racism of any kind, even inadvertently stemming from cultural bias, is wrong and is not who we aspire to be as a school district. I am sorry and disappointed that this happened in our school."

The St. Louis County Chapter of the NAACP wrote on Facebook that the assignment was "absolutely unacceptable." In a post on Sunday, they wrote: "We are so disgusted with this absolutely unacceptable backwards behavior."

John Bowman, the chapter's president, added to KSDK: "It's appalling, it's unacceptable and the school district owes the family, the public an apology."

He added: "There needs to be an aggressive action taken to make sure this never happens again." Newsweek has contacted Bowman for additional comment.

This article has been updated to include additional information from the Mehlville School District.

Stock photo. A teacher was placed on leave after setting an assignment asking fifth grade students to decide prices for slaves. Getty