Mother of black student in mock slave auction: “Why is that okay?”

Updated: May. 31, 2019 at 6:00 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - A woman says her daughter was one of the two black students who was assigned to play the part of a slave in a fourth grade classroom exercise - an exercise she says was not appropriate, especially without her consent.

The mother of one of the fourth grade students involved in a mock slave auction at North Elementary School on Tuesday says she didn’t find out that something had happened until Thursday when the superintendent called. But she still didn’t know what happened - only that there was an incident.

The mother, who asked not to be named, says the classroom exercise made her daughter feel uncomfortable but she didn’t tell her mother.

“She didn’t want to tell me because there was something she wanted to participate in school so she figured if she told me that she would probably get in trouble and that she wouldn’t be able to go,” said the mother.

Her daughter later told her that the teacher didn’t ask for volunteers, but picked her and another black child to come to the front of the class and told them they were playing the parts of slaves.

“She told my daughter if she was a slave, she would be working as a seamstress or something like that,” said the mother.

The mother says two white students were then chosen to be slave owners and then the teacher conducted an auction. When the black students were auctioned off, they were told to call the bidder “master” and their last name.

“She felt uncomfortable. She said she didn’t like that she had to be a part of the experience, she would have rather sat it out. If they would have learned it a different way or anything like that, I would’ve felt a little bit more comfortable - if they would have probably would’ve watched a movie or read about it in a book or something like that. To actually have them physically do this in school, yeah, she didn’t like it, she didn’t like it at all,” said the mother. “She’s not a slave. We’re not slaves. Why is that okay?”

The mother says she was angry when she found out.

“I don’t think that that’s okay. I don’t think that’s appropriate for her to do that. I mean, even if she thought that okay, maybe this would be a great idea, I think that she should have gotten permission from the parents first before she even tried out this type of whatever she decided this was going to be. She asks permission for anything else that they’re doing so for this, for something like this, I kinda feel like you should have asked permission just to see if people would want their children to be a part of an exercise like this,” said the mother.

The mother says she would like to see the teacher fired. She says she doesn’t want the same thing to happen to someone else’s child.

On Thursday, the school district said the teacher had been placed on administrative leave pending a full investigation. We reached back out to the district Friday for comment, but did not hear back.

We also reached out to the teacher’s union, which referred us to the district.

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