Nashville community and city leaders called for stronger oversight and policies in the classroom after a student-teacher last week taught her fourth grade students a lesson on a speech about keeping black slaves under control.
The lesson taught by a Waverly Belmont Elementary School black student-teacher has led to her dismissal from Metro Nashville Public Schools because she taught material that was not age appropriate or within the scope of a fourth grade class, according to a district spokesman. The supervising teacher was also placed on administrative leave.
The lesson focused on pre-Civil War United States history and was not tied to Black History Month. It focused on a supposed 1712 William Lynch speech about slavery tactics, including “how to make a slave” during that era.
The lesson has outraged parents, who called it inappropriate and insensitive during Black History Month.Families protested Tuesday night during a Nashville school board meeting, holding signs and standing to oppose the lesson.
Councilwoman Delishia Porterfield, speaking to the school board, said there need to be stronger checks in place.
“There needs to be a better policy on making sure that our supervising teachers are working with our student teachers and that they are following any policy that MNPS has in place,” Porterfield said. “And there needs to be a better policy of parents being notified on issues like this.”
In a district statement, Nashville schools officials said they regret if any students or parents were caused pain as a result of this incident.
“District leaders have been working with school administrators and parents to address concerns for the students involved,” the district statement says.
Other similar incidents around the teaching of slavery have occurred in Middle Tennessee in the last year.
Williamson County Schools made adjustments in how it teaches slavery and African-American history after it came under fire for homework assignments regarding slavery.
Nashville parents in attendance on Tuesday at the board meeting said they were disappointed that such a lesson could occur in the fourth grade classroom. They also questioned the timing.
“February is a time to celebrate and honor African Americans,” said Nina Lockert. “How did this promote positive self-esteem and create positive diversity within our wildly diverse schools?”
School board members said that they hope an incident such as the one last week doesn’t occur again and that it serves as a teaching moment about how not to approach a classroom lesson
“Hopefully we can learn from this experience and learn how to deal with race relations, race issues and race history … with delicacy,” said school board member Freda Player-Peters.
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