The mother of a Milwaukee fourth-grader was shocked to see her son's homework assignment asking for "3 'good' reasons' for slavery, along with three bad.
Trameka Brown-Berry, a graduate student in nursing at Alverno College, posted on Facebook, "Does anyone else find my fourth-grader's homework offensive?" with a picture of her son Jerome's assignment. Thousands of people shared the photo and commented.
Brown-Berry's son, Jerome, is a student at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and School, a school that "exists to provide a Christ-centered quality education to students in grades 3K–8."
In a statement to local TV station WESH, the school said, "We understand that, as presented, the words used showed a lack of sensitivity and were offensive. The purpose of the assignment was not, in any way, to have students argue that any slavery is acceptable — a concept that goes against our core values and beliefs about the equality and worth of people of all races."
Jerome's answers to the questions were as follows:
To 3 'good' reasons for slavery: "I feel there is no good reason for slavery, that's why I did not write."
To 3 bad reasons fro slavery: "biting them," separating family members, and making others do work that's "your job."
And a final note: "I am proud to be black because we are strong and brave."
Following the incident, Brown-Berry approached the school's principal about the insensitive nature of the homework assignment's wording, regardless its intent, and made several requests moving forward:
Trameka Brown-Berry later said on Facebook that she had spoken to the school principal about the assignment and made five requests: a verbal apology to her son and others in the class, a formal apology sent to parents, that the assignment be removed from current and future curriculum, that teachers communicate with parents when they're broaching sensitive topics, and that the school's staff be trained in cultural competency. The principal agreed to all of these, she said.
"The moral of the story is, the only way to teach our kids to stand up for their rights and respect is to model it," she wrote. "With all of your support I was able to give my child a personal life lesson about how change starts with you."