The mother of a child at a middle school in Staunton, Virginia is calling upon the NAACP to investigate the actions of a teacher who she says forced Black students in her class to play the role of slaves while teaching a lesson on the Louisiana Purchase.
Tamika Derozen says she reported the 6th-grade teacher after her son recently came home from Shelburne Middle School and detailed having been asked, along with other Black students, to come to the front of the classroom and pretend that they were picking cotton. "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 said. According to Derozen's son, some of the white students were even invited up to play in the role of slave masters.
Derozen had initially agreed to sit across from the teacher in a meeting mediated by the school's principal but decided against it when she learned the teacher attempted to defend her lesson by showing students a clip from Roots, asking them whether it would have made sense to have anyone but Black people represent slavery. "She went on to say, 'exactly my point. For those of you that I offended, I apologize. But I want you to understand my reason for calling you up as African-Americans is because you better fit the role as a slave," said Derozen.
Staunton City Schools Superintendent, Linda Reviea, says the district is investigating the incident. "If such behavior occurred, it is grossly inappropriate, insensitive and contradictory to the values of our school division and will not be tolerated. At all times we expect our teachers and staff to be positive role models and demonstrate sound judgment," she said in a statement made to the press. "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."