Tag Archives: assignment

Black middle school students asked to clean cotton for slavery assignment, family alleges

SPOKANE, Wash. — A Washington state family is calling for the removal of a school administrator whose suggestion was to separate two Black students after their mom raised concerns about a classroom assignment the students say involved cleaning cotton.

Twins Emzayia and Zyeshauwne Feazell said they were in their social studies class on May 3 when they said the teacher pulled out a box of raw cotton and told the class they were going to do a “fun” activity. The girls added the students were subsequently instructed to clean freshly picked cotton as part of a classroom assignment to see who could do so the fastest.

The 14-year-olds, who attend Sacajawea Middle School in Spokane, said that they were “hurt” and “shocked” during the lesson and told their mother, Brandi Feazell, about the incident.

Brandi Feazell said she was “floored” when she heard about the lesson being taught in the class.

“For you to pass out cotton and to my children [and tell them] that essentially, they’re going to pick the cotton clean and it’s a race of who can get it clean first, that was extremely bothersome to me and my children,” said the twin girls’ mother. “Under no circumstance … do they need to be taught what it’s like to be a slave or what it’s like to be Black.”

Feazell said that upon hearing about the classroom activity, she wanted to remind her daughters of their worth.

“I reinforced to my daughters that they are worthy and their value,” said Feazell. “That was a horrible time in our history and we should be learning from that and it should never be repeated.”

Brandi Feazell said she called the school to raise concerns about the lesson in the classroom, but added that principal assistant Taylor Skidmore defended the teacher’s actions. He then suggested removing the twins from their social studies class, the mom said.

“[The teacher] is still at work and yet my kids are being punished when I’m told that the best thing they could do for my kids at that point was to segregate them into a room by themselves away from the white teacher,” Feazell said.

Sandra Jarrard, executive director of communications for the Spokane Public School district, told ABC News that a third-party investigation into the incident will be conducted.

“The students were learning about the industrial revolution and the cotton gin was discussed,” according to a statement from the Spokane Public School district. “We take all complaints very seriously and are committed to investigating them fully. There are conflicting reports to this incident. Once the third party investigation is completed, we look forward to coming back to share the outcomes.”

The cotton gin, patented in the late 18th century by Eli Whitney, was used to separate cotton fiber from the plant’s seeds. The tool greatly increased cotton production but also greatly increased southern plantations’ need for slave labor, with tens of thousands uprooted from Africa in the decade following the gin’s invention, according to the National Archives.

Feazell said that she was disappointed with the school administration’s response to the incident.

“I truly believe that at this point, the school district did not do their job,” said Brandi Feazell. “The administration at the school as well as the district level, are not protecting these children the way they need to.”

The girls have not returned to school since the incident occurred and their mother said the administration’s response “made it seem as if we were not going to be able to have my daughters in a safe environment at all.”

“We hope that these teachers and educators are going to fulfill and thrive and grow and help us create these children that are going to be productive citizens in the world and make it a better place,” said Feazell. “When I sent my children to school that day, they came back with their mental and their spirit and their emotional beings of themselves broken.”

The family is calling for the social studies teacher and other school administrators to be disciplined for how they handled the situation. They are also calling for the removal of Skidmore, as well as a formal apology from the school district.

ABC News’ Micah Washington contributed to this report.

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Author: ABCNews

This post originally appeared on ABC13 RSS Feed

Georgetown ISD family considers other districts after daughter's 'disturbing' class assignment on slavery

Author Jennifer Sanders
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — It was a call Martine and Amos Keith never thought they would get from their fifth-grade daughter about a class assignment.

She’s a student at Carver Elementary School in the Georgetown Independent School District, and during one of her remote-learning courses she received this assignment: “Record a speech from the viewpoint of a Southerner explaining why slavery is necessary.”

Picture of a computer screen showing the Georgetown ISD assignment, which reads, "Record a speech from the viewpoint of a Southerner explaining why slavery is necessary." (Courtesy: Martine Keith)
Picture of a computer screen showing the Georgetown ISD assignment, which reads, “Record a speech from the viewpoint of a Southerner explaining why slavery is necessary.” (Courtesy: Martine Keith)

“When I pulled out the assignment, I couldn’t believe my eyes, what I was reading, it was very disturbing, especially in the time we are in now,” said her mom, Martine.

The Keiths said the teacher told them their daughter had a choice whether to do the assignment, and she (the teacher) was just teaching the lessons provided by the district.

The next day, the Keiths pulled their daughter out of that class.

“I was informed that this particular bonus assignment has been removed from the curriculum, but how long has it been going on?” asked Martine. 

After KXAN asked several questions about the assignment and its origin, Georgetown ISD sent the following statement.

“Georgetown ISD is aware of this and deeply regrets the pain this may have caused for students and their families as a result. This is not reflective of Georgetown ISD or our beliefs.

We believe in equity for all learners, which includes developing and nurturing a true sense of empowerment and belonging for every learner no matter their race, gender, ethnicity, language, ability, family income, sexual orientation or any other social factor. We realize that questions like the one posted can be setbacks in making meaningful progress in that area.

We have taken measures to ensure the lesson is no longer available and will continue to engage our staff, our parents and our community in our work to ensure equity for all learners. Curriculum resources have been updated.”
-Georgetown ISD Office of Communications & Community Engagement

A spokesperson for the district also said the assignment has not been in circulation and has not been used otherwise. The spokesperson said it is her understanding that it was part of an older curriculum draft that was never used and simply overlooked in our files.

The spokesperson added the Civil War is a sensitive topic — in and out of school. Georgetown ISD said it is continuing to do work around equity and professional learning, including how to teach sensitive topics in ways that honor Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) while being inclusive and thoughtful to students.

The Keiths want accountability and assurance other students aren’t impacted by this. In the below handwritten letter, their daughter explained people have suffered from slavery, and she wants to make an impact in a world where people aren’t judged by their skin color.

Letter from Martine Keith's daughter explaining how the Georgetown ISD assignment made her feel (Courtesy: Martine Keith)
Letter from Martine Keith’s daughter explaining how the Georgetown ISD assignment made her feel (Courtesy: Martine Keith)

“We always taught her to stand up, if you know something is right or wrong, let us know, and she knew that this was wrong,” Martine said. “We were hoping both of our children would be able to graduate from Eastview High School [in Georgetown ISD], but that’s not the case anymore, so we are looking for another district.”