Appleton School District apologizes for "offensive" slavery assignment

School begins this week; parents doing last-minute back-to-school shopping. File photo (MGN Online/Freeport School District)

UPDATE: On Jan. 16 this story was updated to reflect the appropriate southern school name that apologized for a similar assignment to Our Redeemer Lutheran School in Wauwatosa.


APPLETON (WLUK) - The Appleton Area School District is apologizing following an assignment some high school students were asked to complete.

The district says the assignment, which was part of a history lesson on slavery in the U.S., included insensitive material.

As part of the assignment, students were asked to review the movie '12 Years a Slave,' as well as write on essay on what a person would expect to do if they were a slave. Students were told to include things like the "physical requirements of the job," and the "relationship with your master."

The Appleton School District Superintendent issued a statement Friday.

"An Appleton high school educator recently created and used an objectionable essay prompt as one part of a US History unit on slavery," said Judith Baseman, Superintendent of Schools. "This matter has been taken very seriously and is currently being addressed by both school and district administration."

The district did not give specifics on which teacher assigned the project, or any potential discipline that teacher may receive. In the statement, Basemen said she could not discuss specifics when it comes to personnel matters.

The district said as soon as it became aware of the situation, it immediately addressed the issue with the teacher. The district says steps were put into place so the same situation would not happen again.

"Although we believe that the educator’s choices were not intended to cause harm, we understand that this essay prompt was and is hurtful and offensive to all of our students," said Baseman.

The district says it believes lessons about slavery are a necessary part of the curriculum, but also says it is important to make sure those lessons are respectful toward all students.

The district says it is in the process of reviewing its current curriculum, instructional materials, and practices in this area. The district says it will also be providing coaching and training to all staff members to improve cultural sensitivity.

"Clearly, our work is not done," said Baseman. "We sincerely apologize to our families and to the students who were asked to complete this assignment."

Earlier this month, Our Redeemer Lutheran School in Wauwatosa apologized for an assignment given to some fourth grade students in the district. It asked students to "give three good reasons for slavery and three bad reasons."