Friday, March 10, 2017

STUDENT SLAVE AUCTION POSTER ASSIGNMENT DRAWS COMPLAINTS; AND ANOTHER SWASTIKA?

Student-created poster for class project
The creation of student-made slavery auction posters and wanted signs at South Mountain School as part of a lesson on Colonial America drew some concerns from parents who found them offensive, and sparked an apology note from Principal Alyna Jacobs.

The posters, first noticed on some bulletin boards at the school by parents, included some drawings of slaves.

Jacobs' note said, in part:

This week we have been immersed in discussions of the Colonial America Project, and in particular the slave auction posters which some students chose to create as part of the assignment. The strong response to this year’s project has deeply impacted staff and families alike, and I apologize for any unintended pain, anger or offense caused by the assignment.

See some of the images below:




In the same note, Jacobs also informed parents that a swastika was found on a desk in the school as some students chanted Hitler's name. This is the latest in a string of offensive incidents at South Orange schools, which are also attended by Maplewood students. 

Those earlier incidents included two racist messages found this week in bathrooms at South Orange Middle School, and a swastika found there late last year.

See the remainder of Jacob's note below:

Today, we became aware of an incident involving a small group of fourth grade students who were chanting the name of Adolf Hitler, in addition to finding swastikas drawn on a desk. We immediately conducted an investigation.

Unfortunately, incidents of students using hate symbols and words are taking place in schools in our district and across the country. This may be fueled by recent national rhetoric, and may also be examples of students trying to provoke a reaction without having a full understanding of the history, meaning or impact of the gestures or words they are using.

I spoke with each of the fourth grade classrooms today, and talked with students about gestures, signs and symbols that convey hate, and how the use of gestures, signs and symbols like this negatively impact our school and our community. I also met with our school social worker and we are planning morning meetings to discuss these issues in our upper grade classrooms.

At South Mountain School, we are committed to ensuring that our school community values and respects each of its members.
I am asking for your partnership and support in also having conversations with your children at home about the power of words, images and gestures. I want to share a resource with you that you may find useful:

http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-49-spring-2015/feature/hate-hallways

By continuing these dialogues at home and at school, we can work together to make our community a place where all members feel welcome, safe and included. 

In partnership,
Alyna Jacobs, Principal

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