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Teacher Assigns Students ‘Slave Song’ Activity

A Baltimore area high school English teacher was placed on administrative leave, but returned to class last week after assigning students to write a “fun” slave song as part of a lesson on Frederick Douglass.

The move is the latest in a string of racially charged incidents in the Howard County Schools system.

Superintendent Renee Foose said she put the Mount Hebron High School teacher on leave for four days after the school system learned of the ridiculous assignment. Foose referred to the teacher as “inexperienced” and said the assignment was not part of the school system’s official curriculum.

“It was offensive and out of scope with what we should be teaching,” Foose said. Citing a personnel matter, school officials did not identify the teacher. The instructor returned to the classroom Tuesday, Foose said.

Principal Andrew Cockley said in a Dec. 7 email sent to parents that the assignment was linked to a lesson on “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.” Students were asked to create a slave song “as a means to learn how language can be used effectively to convey feelings and important messages.”

He also said the activity was “culturally insensitive and caused discomfort for many students. The teacher has apologized to all students given the assignment and their parents. The assignment has been removed.”

“Some thought we shouldn’t have apologized; some thought we were too quick to apologize,” Foose said. “I do not believe you can ever be too quick to apologize.”