Saltus caught in storm of protest over middle school assignment on slavery
A private school was engulfed in a storm of protest yesterday after it was accused of asking middle school pupils to prepare an assignment that discussed “the better parts of slavery”.
The move came after social-media comments blasted the school — with one commenter demanding that the teacher responsible be fired.
A WhatsApp message claimed that a pupil was taught: “Slavery was a long time ago, not all slave owners were bad — some threw birthday parties for the slaves, and being a slave was better because you got free housing and food”.
A Twitter post read: “Can someone please let me know if is true that Saltus Grammar School asked students to write an essay about ‘The Better Parts of Slavery’ I just want confirmation before I sound off and request that the educator be fired for attempting to cause harm with this narrative.”
Saltus refused last night to reveal the nature of the work set as part of a humanities course or its terms of reference, but said teachers had been asked to review “the unit and coursework in question” and rework it to “improve the content and focus”.
A spokeswoman added that it had taken the accusations “very seriously” and had brought in a race relations expert to help the school to check its coursework to ensure that it was racially sensitive.
The spokeswoman said: “We are working with Dr Vernée Butterfield, an expert in culturally responsive practices and racial equity, to further review our coursework to ensure new perspectives are incorporated and biases or space for misinterpretations are addressed and corrected.
“Dr Butterfield will also work with our students and teachers to review our humanities units together and ensure they meet our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”
She added: “Saltus is committed to fostering a diverse, open and inclusive educational environment that actively seeks to confront systemic racism and discrimination through growth, learning and dialogue.
“We are taking the concerns from our community very seriously.”
The school confirmed that the controversy broke over a piece of work set in Saltus’s middle school last term.
The spokeswoman said: “Racism has no place at Saltus. We believe that growth and learning can only come from interaction among people with different experiences and world views.
“As part of our ongoing diversity and inclusion work, we are listening, learning and taking action to deepen confidence and trust within our community while cultivating a dynamic learning environment that inspires our students to lead us to a more just, fair and sustainable world.”
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