I mean… I just don’t have words… which is weird for me… a little sick to my stomach over this, actually… talk about a different fourth grade experience…
I’d love to believe that were I subjected to this horror show I would have been able to poke fun at the situation. That maybe I would have been able to choose one male white friend and taken the ‘performance’ to a whole ‘nother level by crying, “Oh please don’t sell me away, father…” However, being nine or ten and shy, I probably would at best have refused to participate, but, more likely, gone along, swallowing my anger, humiliation, and shame until I got in the car after school and told my mother who would promptly have taken care of it. I assure you of that.
My mother would have gone to school and ripped the teacher, and anyone else who was walking by, a new a**hole had this happened to me. She did that when she didn’t like the way they taught about the Mayflower and the Indians in first grade. We did it together in the fifth grade when Sr. Mary Ann said some offensive b.s. about MLK and used me, the only student of color, as a reference. She got fired.
As a “black” student who nearly always served as a speck of pepper in a sea of salt, I can tell you that it is uncomfortable enough to go through the history lessons on the Civil War when the class is simply reading straight from the textbook, but to actually be used to physically demonstrate the atrocity…. It feels bad enough when you’re in geography and your friend accidentally reads the “river Niger” aloud as the river nigger and a hush falls over a crowd and everyone is looking at you in your desk at the back of the room even though their eyes are facing forward… but THIS. I just can’t… Jessica Boyle, imho, you officially suck as a teacher and a human being. Hopefully this will open your eyes to all that you have had the privilege of being blind to, and you’ll come out of this a better person. Good f***ing luck!
The principal of Sewells Point Elementary School has apologized to parents for a teacher’s classroom exercise last week that cast her black and mixed-race fourth-graders as available for sale.
The apology came after the teacher separated the students from their white classmates and auctioned them, division spokeswoman Elizabeth Thiel Mather said. The exercise was part of an April 1 class on the Civil War.
In an April 6 letter sent to parents of students in the class, Principal Mary B. Wrushen wrote: “I recently became aware of a history lesson that was presented to the students in Ms. Jessica Boyle’s fourth grade class. Although her actions were well intended to meet the instructional objectives, the activity presented was inappropriate for the students.
“The lesson could have been thought through more carefully, as to not offend her students or put them in an uncomfortable situation,” Wrushen wrote.
Wrushen said the exercise was not supported by the school or division. “I will follow up with the classroom teacher to ensure nothing like this ever occurs again,” the letter said. “In addition, the guidance counselor is available to discuss any concerns your child may still have concerning this classroom lesson.”
Wrushen declined to comment Friday. Boyle, who has been with the division since 2005, did not return a call to the school. She has taught at Sewells Point for three years, and before that was at Dreamkeepers Academy, according to the division website.
Mather said the division was responding to the incident with “appropriate personnel action.” She did not give details.
Wrushen became aware of the auction exercise after receiving complaints from two parents, and spoke to the class about the incident, Mather said.
“This lesson was not part of the approved curriculum,” Mather said.
Chris Lee, whose daughter is in Boyle’s class, was among parents picking up their children Friday at the school on Hampton Boulevard near Norfolk Naval Station. He said he’d heard no details about the exercise, though he received Wrushen’s letter.
“My wife and I were trying to figure out what the letter was about, because we heard nothing about it, we just saw the letter,” he said.
Told by a reporter about the auction, Lee said, “That sounds inappropriate to me. Wow. That’s interesting – that’s something I have to digest.” He said he would ask his daughter to tell him about the incident.
The school has 590 students.
Contacted Friday by The Virginian-Pilot, School Board Chairman Kirk Houston said he had not known about the auction.
“That’s very disturbing to me, extremely disturbing to me,” he said. “Mock slave auctions involving children are absolutely unacceptable in a classroom. At this point this is a personnel matter, and the School Board will monitor its outcome.”
Peggy Scott, treasurer of the Norfolk Council PTA, also first heard about the incident from The Pilot.
“I’m sitting here with my mouth hanging open,” Scott said. “There are some things you don’t do.”
In a statement Friday, Superintendent Richard Bentley said: “The school district does not condone this type of lesson in any way. It was wrong. It was outside the boundaries of the curriculum and appropriate instructional practices.”
London Illustrated News, February 16, 1861, depicting a slave auction in Virginia. The sign on the podium reads “Negroes for sale at auction this day at 1 o’clock.”
Dealers inspecting a negro at a slave auction in Virginia. [The Inspection]
by Lefevre James Cranstone Image rights owned by the Virginia Historical Society
Silvia Federici’s Slave auction, United States