SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) -- The Sun Prairie school superintendent is apologizing for a racially insensitive lesson given to some middle school students on the first day of Black History Month.
"We are writing today to apologize for a grave error in judgment that occurred during sixth-grade social studies instruction at Patrick Marsh Middle School," Brad Saron, Superintendent, wrote in an email to parents.
The teachers have been placed on administrative leave while the district investigates.
A screen shot from a parent of a sixth grade student of the assignment quickly began circulating on social media.
In the assignment, students were given various scenarios, one of which was: "A slave stands before you. This slave has disrespected his master by telling him, 'you are not my master.' How will you punish the slave?"
The student is then asked to answer.
District officials say a small group of our teachers developed and used the activity that the district says was neither racially conscious nor aligned to the district's mission, vision, values, curriculum or district equity statement.
"Once we learned of this activity, we immediately stopped any further teaching of the lesson and promptly began an investigation," Saron wrote in the email to parents. "In our preliminary findings, we have determined the lesson was not a part of our district curriculum and therefore, no student should participate in or complete the assignment."
Read the full parent email:
Sun Prairie Area School District Families:
We are writing today to apologize for a grave error in judgment that occurred during sixth-grade social studies instruction at Patrick Marsh Middle School. A small group of our teachers developed and used an activity that was neither racially conscious nor aligned to our district mission, vision, values, curriculum, or district equity statement.
Once we learned of this activity, we immediately stopped any further teaching of the lesson and promptly began an investigation. In our preliminary findings, we have determined the lesson was not a part of our district curriculum and therefore, no student should participate in or complete the assignment. To be clear, this lesson is not consistent with the School Board’s vision for this school district, our commitment to equity and cultural responsiveness, or the development opportunities we have invested in our staff.
The staff issued a direct apology to the students in the class and their families. While our administrative staff continues to investigate the situation, the teachers involved have been placed on administrative leave, consistent with our district’s procedures.
This incident is a fracture in our system to support Every Child, Every Day. We deeply regret that this lesson took place, and we also recognize that this was a breakdown in our curricular processes and our district-wide focus on equity. In addition to immediately addressing this situation, it is important that we commit to changing our curriculum and professional development for all staff. To that end, we will work to immediately reconvene our social studies curriculum review committee for an intensive review of our social studies teaching practices with the lens of racial trauma and curriculum violence.
Our Student Services team will be following up with the students from these classrooms and will be available to support other students in processing their feelings about this incident. Further information will come from Patrick Marsh’s leadership, including opportunities for listening sessions. Additionally, our Patrick Marsh leadership team will be working with Black community leaders to work toward community healing. All of our schools are prepared to support students' processing.
Brad Saron, Superintendent
Stephanie Leonard-Witte, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching, Learning & Equity
Janet Rosseter, Assistant Superintendent for Operations