A Virginia school district is investigating an incident that allegedly took place last week, in which a mother said her son’s teacher asked African-American students to pretend to be slaves during a history lesson while white students acted as noblemen.
Tamika Derozen said her son’s sixth grade class was learning about the Louisiana Purchase last week, when his teacher asked black students to pretend to pick cotton and dig for coal, according to WHSV, the local ABC affiliate. The boy told his mother the teacher also asked a few white students to play noblemen, Derozen told the station.
“He said, ‘Mom, I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to walk out of the class, but I didn’t want to get in trouble,’” Derozen told the affiliate.
The principal apologized after she complained, Derozen said. But on Monday, the teacher showed an image from the miniseries “Roots” and told the class would not make sense for white students to play slaves, Derozen told WHSV.
The school district said in a statement on its website that it is investigating the incident and would handle the matter “swiftly.”
“If such behavior occurred, it is grossly inappropriate, insensitive and contradictory to the values of our school division and will not be tolerated,” the statement from Staunton City Schools superintendent Linda G. Reviea said. “I want to emphasize that in no way does Staunton City Schools condone or encourage instruction that deliberately singles out a person or group because of race and subjects them to disparagement or humiliation.”
School board members have declined to comment, according to the News Leader. Derozen told WHSV she has contacted the NAACP and hopes other parents of children in her son’s class will come forward.