Parent fights slavery lesson at Hardin County elementary school - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Parent fights slavery lesson at Hardin County elementary school

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A mother in Hardin County says an elementary lesson on slavery crossed the line.

Today we explain what the teacher asked the kids to do and the school's response.

"Suppose that a plantation owner bought you at a slave auction and sent you to work in the tobacco fields," Rachel Monroe reads from her social studies worksheet.

She received the worksheet in her fifth grade social studies class at Meadow View Elementary in Radcliff.

Her teacher split the class into groups and asked them to imagine being slaves and explain how they'd respond to being sold based on the three prompts.

"I would run away, though I might be caught and punished severely; I would resist; I would work hard and obey the rules in hopes I would be treated well," Rachel read from the responses.

Rachel is a bi-racial student and said the question made her feel uncomfortable. 

"I was like very emotional, like somewhat angry and somewhat sadness," she said.

The 12-year-old's mother questioned the teaching at her daughter's school.

"My first reaction was, 'Are they kidding me?' How very insensitive," Rachel's mother Shameka Sells said.  "Let children know what happened. This is how it's happening, these were the repercussions. Not just, 'let's pretend you were sold to work in a cotton field.'"

The Kentucky education standard for social studies in fifth grade contains no specific language about slavery or The Civil War. The standard does say fifth graders must understand the five big ideas in U.S. history: Government and civics, culture and society, economics, geography and historical perspective.

A representative form the Kentucky Department of Education said it's up to each district, the school or even the teacher themself to determine how those lessons are taught.

"This particular question was an exact question from the material the teacher was using that was suggested," Hardin County Superintendent Nanette Johnston said.

The school principal met with Rachel's mom, who is also a licensed therapist, after she sounded off on social media. The district agreed to remove this specific material.

"Putting themself in the place of someone who has experienced that, I think probably socially and emotionally it was hard for a fifth grader to grasp that," Johnston said. 

Hardin County school leaders say slavery will still be taught in fifth grade with different class work. Materials aside, it's a history all students need to know.

"I've learned it was a very cruel time," Rachel said.

The school district says the other takeaway in this issue is not to air grievances on social media. The recommendation for all parents who have a problem with curriculum: go to the school first.

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