Williamson County Schools superintendent Mike Looney apologized to parents for an 8th Grade Social Studies assignment that asked students to imagine that their family owned slaves and to develop a list of expectations for them.
The apology came after the brother of a student posted a photo of a grid of nine options on Twitter. Other assignment prompts included “Create a PSA informing citizens of hazards living in urban areas,” and “Wring a poem or song lyrics, compare and contrast the lives of plantation owners and their slave population.”
“In short, the assignment was wholly inappropriate and doesn’t reflect our district’s commitment to treat all students with dignity and respect,” Looney wrote in his open letter to Sunset Middle families. “The assignment has been pulled and no grades will be recorded.”
Sunset Middle School principal Tim Brown and the two teachers who created the assignment also wrote to Sunset families expressing remorse.
What are y’alls a thoughts on my sisters HW?🤔 pic.twitter.com/HLp1NJdJtg
— Danny Boy (@danholfountain) February 28, 2019
The full text of all three letters is below:
Dear Eighth Grade Families,
This week, we gave our students an assignment we recognize was inappropriate. We have pulled the assignment, and no grade will be given.
We have and will be apologizing to our students. It was never our intention to hurt any of our students. The assignment was insensitive, and it did not promote Sunset Middle’s goal of an inclusive environment. Please accept our sincere apologies.
Susan Hooper and Kim Best
Dear Sunset Family,
I am writing to apologize to our school community for an assignment made in 8th grade Social Studies this week. The assignment asked students to imagine that their families owned slaves and to develop a list of expectations for such. I recognize this assignment was inappropriate, and steps are being taken to rectify this situation. The assignment has been pulled from the 8th grade Social Studies classes. I know that a mistake was made by giving students this assignment.
My hope is to nurture a safe learning environment where all students feel valued, respected, and included, and we will continue to work toward that. I will continue to have meaningful conversations with my faculty around creating assignments that consider perspectives from all backgrounds.
I am very remorseful that this situation occurred.
Dr. Tim Brown
Dear Sunset Middle Families,
I have learned of an 8th grade social studies homework assignment that was insensitive and reflects poorly on our school community.
The assignment asked students to choose from a list of tasks to include pretending that the student’s family owns slaves. Then the student could create a list of expectations for the family’s slaves.
In short, the assignment was wholly inappropriate and doesn’t reflect our district’s commitment to treat all students with dignity and respect. The assignment has been pulled and no grades will be recorded.
Please accept my sincere apology for this gross error in judgement from WCS personnel. We have been providing professional training to our staff members on cultural awareness this year, but I admit that we have more work to do in this area. Please know, we are absolutely committed to ensuring all of our students feel welcome, wanted and worthwhile.
Dr. Mike Looney