Student teacher’s ‘inappropriate’ lesson had children acting as slaves, landowners

Parents of fifth grade students in Centreville, Virginia, learned this week that in teaching their kids about slavery, a student teacher chose to have the children play slaves and landowners. The Fairfax County school system is addressing the inappropriate lesson.

In a letter home to parents, Centreville Elementary School Principal Josh Douds offered an apology and explained what happened during a classroom activity on the economics of slavery, led by a student teacher.

“Students participated in a simulation where they acted as slaves and a landowner. I want to reiterate that this activity was not part of the division curriculum, and was not an appropriate or culturally responsive way to engage students,” Douds wrote in the letter obtained by WTOP.

The students were not assigned roles by race, according to Fairfax County schools spokeswoman Julie Moult, who also said the student teacher was being observed by a university supervisor and a Fairfax County Public Schools teacher.

The student teacher is not an employee of Fairfax County schools. It’s unclear what, if any, disciplinary action will be taken against the FCPS teacher who was observing.

The school system released a statement, that says in part:

“FCPS is committed to nurturing a community that is grounded in dignity, humanization, and belonging with an emphasis on culturally-responsive practices. In partnership with our school community, the Chief Equity Office and the Equity and Cultural Responsiveness team, will continue to provide coaching, professional development, and support for all FCPS employees.”

WTOP’s Scott Gelman contributed to this report.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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