A group of teachers at a Madison, Wisconsin middle school have been placed on leave after giving students an assignment that asked them how they would “punish” a slave.
The assignment was given to a sixth grade social studies class at Patrick Marsh Middle School on February 1, the first day of Black History Month.
According to a statement from the school, the lesson was about a set of laws established by King Hammurabi in ancient Mesopotamia.
The assignment drew immediate backlash on social media with screenshots being shared by several parents.
The lesson asked students to imagine they were speaking to a slave: “This slave has disrespected his master by telling him, ‘You are not my master!’ How do you punish this slave?”
In addition to placing the teachers involved with the assignment on administrative leave, the Sun Prairie School District has issued a public apology for the assignment.
“Our intent missed the mark, and for that we are deeply sorry,” the statement said. “Going forward we will be sure to think critically about whether our intent matches our impact.”
Superintendent Brad Saron sent an email to the families apologizing for the “grave error in judgement.”
“A small group of our teachers developed and used an activity that was neither racially conscious nor aligned to our district mission, vision, values, curriculum, or district equity statement,” he wrote.
Saron went on to say that the lesson was not part of the district-approved curriculum.