SHOREWOOD, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin middle school gym teacher has been placed on indefinite leave while district officials look into claims that she separated students in one class by race and assigned the black children to research games that enslaved children played.
The Shorewood Intermediate School teacher was instructing seventh-graders about games from around the world on April 1 when she allegedly gave the assignment to the black students, Shorewood School District Superintendent Bryan Davis said in a Thursday letter to parents. He didn’t name the teacher.
“We take these allegations extremely serious,” Davis wrote. “Throughout this situation, student safety and well-being have been our top priority.”
One of the black students, MaHailey Stephens, told WITI-TV that she and her classmates were separated into groups based on race and asked to research games from their cultures.
“I went to my mom, I’m like, ‘mom, what are slave games?'” she said.
Her mother, Reshunda Stephens, told the station that the same teacher asked her older daughter to be part of “the colored club,” last year.
“How many more times do people have to feel uncomfortable until change happens?” she asked.
Davis said the district is “committed to providing an environment of inclusion in our schools.”
School officials including a counselor and a psychologist are providing support to affected students, according to Davis.
This is not the first case of a teacher accused of assigning students a project about slavery that was offensive to black students and their families. In February, a teacher at Sunset Middle School in Brentwood asked students to pretend their family owns slaves and create a list of expectations for the slaves.
Williamson County School Superintendent Mike Looney called the assignment a gross error in judgment” and apologized to the community