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‘Slave trade’ assignment at Missouri school prompts investigation

OAKVILLE, Mo. (KTVI) – School officials are investigating a recent classroom assignment at Blades Elementary School after fifth-graders were asked to consider what they’d charge for slaves during a social studies class.

The assignment was given at Blades Elementary School in the St. Louis suburb of Mehlville, KTVI reports.

“You own a plantation or farm and therefore need more workers,” the problem reads. “You begin to get involved in the slave trade industry and have slaves work on your farm. Your product to trade is slaves.”

It then prompts students to set a price for a slave and advises, “These could be worth a lot.”

A picture of the troubling portion of the assignment was posted to Facebook Sunday afternoon.

The rest of the assignment focuses on trading other commodities like grains, lumber, turpentine, and fish. KTVI obtained the assignment in its entirety:

On Monday, school principal Jeremy Booker sent out a letter to families at Blades Elementary. He called the assignment “culturally insensitive” and said the teacher apologized. The principal said he would take measures to ensure all teachers and staff are aware of and respectful of “cultural bias in the near future.”

Dear Blades families,

This weekend, I became aware of an assignment that was provided to fifth-grade students in Social Studies. The assignment, which was completed during class time, attempted to address market practices. As part of both the Missouri Learning Standards for fifth-grade Social Studies and the fifth-grade Mehlville School District curriculum, students were learning about having goods, needing goods and obtaining goods and how that influenced early settlement in America. Some students who participated in this assignment were prompted to consider how plantation owners traded for goods and slaves.

The assignment was culturally insensitive. I appreciate the parents who notified me of this assignment. I met with the teacher this morning to discuss the purpose of the assignment, the teacher’s interpretation of curriculum standards, and the impact the activity could have on students.

The teacher has expressed significant remorse. The district is continuing to investigate this event. Also, I am working with district leadership to provide all Blades teachers and staff with professional development on cultural bias in the near future. We are working together to ensure all students and families feel valued and respected at Blades Elementary.

Please feel free to call me directly at 314-467-7300 with any questions you may have. I am always available for you and your students.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jeremy Booker
Principal

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