On Monday (May 18), a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against a Tennessee school district and teacher who are accused by a family of creating an assignment called “Let’s Make a Slave.”
According to a report by the Tennessean, the teacher at Waverly Belmont Elementary School in Nashville assigned the lesson last February. Its focus was on a speech given by infamous slave owner Willie Lynch in the 1700s about how to keep an enslaved person under control.
The family who filed the suit last fall said the “wild graphic and inappropriate” content of the lesson caused physical and emotional harm to their child who was in fourth grade at the time. Their student is Black and has autism.
According to the report, the student told his family that he had a fear of being sold as a slave or that he and his family could be separated after the teacher conducted the lesson.
The family claimed in the suit that the school district was apathetic about the situation and other incidents of racial harassment their child experienced by classmates and adults at the school.
“While the lesson in question may well have been especially inappropriate for [the student] as a student with a known disability, and even developmentally inappropriate for all fourth graders, that does not mean that its educational content constituted actionable harassment on the basis of race,” US District Judge Aleta Trauger, who dismissed the case, wrote, per a report by NBC News.
Trauger said that based on legal precedent, the teasing described by the family wasn’t “systematic” or “pervasive” and was therefore not considered harassment.
After the lesson gained public attention, the student-teacher from Vanderbilt University who assigned the lesson, was dismissed by school district officials. The supervising teacher, Andrew Herman, was reportedly placed on administrative leave, but has since returned to work.
State lawmakers around the country have been discussing ways to talk about topics related to America’s history including slavery, racism, and systemic oppression, though even their depiction of the nation’s past seems incongruent with the seriousness of the lasting impact of America’s founding.
Photo: Getty Images