Wisconsin school administrators apologize for ‘error in judgment’ in lesson; state senators react

The Sun Prairie school superintendent is apologizing for a racially insensitive lesson given to some middle school students on the first day of Black History Month, according to ABC affiliate WAOW in Wausau, Wisconsin.

"We are writing today to apologize for a grave error in judgment that occurred during sixth-grade social studies instruction at Patrick Marsh Middle School," Superintendent Brad Saron wrote in an email to parents.

The teachers have been placed on administrative leave while the district investigates.

A screenshot from a parent of a sixth-grade student of the assignment quickly began circulating on social media.

In the assignment, students were given various scenarios, one of which was: "A slave stands before you. This slave has disrespected his master by telling him, ‘you are not my master.’ How will you punish the slave?"

The student is then asked to answer.

District officials say a small group of our teachers developed and used the activity that the district says was neither racially conscious nor aligned to the district’s mission, vision, values, curriculum or district equity statement.

"Once we learned of this activity, we immediately stopped any further teaching of the lesson and promptly began an investigation," Saron wrote in the email to parents. "In our preliminary findings, we have determined the lesson was not a part of our district curriculum and therefore, no student should participate in or complete the assignment."

Two Wisconsin senators voiced their thoughts on the matter, Tuesday.

"I am glad the Sun Prairie School District responded quickly and is actively investigating the situation," Rep. Gary Hebl (D- Sun Prairie) said. "However, this demonstrates how much further we have to go when it comes to addressing racial biases and racial disparities in our state and in our classrooms. No lesson plan, assignment, test, or quiz, should ever involve asking a student how to punish an enslaved person or another human being. Assignments like this further perpetuate racial biases and shows blatant disregard for cultural competency, especially considering this came out on the first day of Black History Month. There is no excuse for how this lesson was presented."

"Slavery is a stain on our history that inflicted years of violence, murder, and created lasting effects and generational trauma that still exists in the Black community," Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison) said. "To reduce the horrific events of a long, dark period of our history to a violent question that asks students to imagine themselves as an owner of enslaved people is deeply disturbing. The assignment that was assigned to sixth-grade students today was inappropriate and racist."