Black History Month Lesson Causes Controversy At Penns Grove Middle School
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By Todd Quinones
PENNS GROVE, N.J. (CBS) — A lesson about slavery during Black History Month has caused a classroom controversy in Salem County. The school district has come to the defense of the teacher, saying she did not do anything wrong.
Critics argue the assignment gave the nine students in the class at Penns Grove Middle School the option of acting like a slave owner who is trying to track down a runaway slave.
“This is clearly disrespectful,” activist Walter Hudson exclaimed.
Hudson is steaming mad over a special education teacher’s assignment.
At issue are two posters, apparently made by a special needs middle school student. The posters depict wanted posters for a runaway slave. He made them in response to a book about slavery that was covered in class as part of Black History Month.
“We ain’t teaching about Dr. Martin Luther King,” he said. “We ain’t teaching about Malcolm X. We are teaching them about how to be a slave mast and if your slave ran away, you create a poster for him.”
The superintendent of the Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional School District argues the teacher has a good reputation and the assignment was part of a lesson plan depicting the evils of slavery.
“[The textbook] talked about the evils of slavery and showing different posters of the abolitionists as well as though who are pro-slavery,” Dr Joseph Massare said.
But Hudson and fellow activist Terence Jones disagree. They say a guardian of one of the students in the class alerted them about the assignment, and that the posters were hung up in the hallway at Grove Middle School.
The superintendent says the posters were never hung on the hallways and the assignment was altered.
“Not one single parent other than this one individual has called to raise any concerns about any parts of the projects,” Massare said.
Hudson says the teacher is white and that most of the students are minorities. He wants an apology from the teacher and the principal.
The superintendent says no disciplinary action is warranted.