Parents Outraged After Black Student is 'Sold' During Class Assignment on Slavery

It was the second racially charged assignment in the school district in weeks.

Parents in a New Jersey school district are displeased with the way slave history is being taught after students completed two racially charged assignments in the last month.

South Mountain Middle School in South Orange came under fire after parent James Davis questioned the school’s curriculum when he realized that 5th grade students were making “wanted” posters for runaway slaves.

In a second alleged incident in the district, a black child was "sold" by white classmates as part of a mock slave auction.

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According to Elissa Malespina, a parent who knows Davis and has an 8th grader in the district, Davis went to the superintendent about the poster project but was “blown off.”

Later, when Davis visited the school and saw the posters he felt uncomfortable with the lack of context attached to them.

The auction posters included wording such as: "Men: aged from 20-26, strong" and "Anne, aged 12 years, a fine house girl," according to reports. Some posters also advertised reward amounts.

“I mean it comes down to the curriculum," Malespina told "Nobody is saying that slavery shouldn’t be taught. But I believe in teaching it in appropriate way for children to understand and when that’s not occurring, there are all problems."

After the first incident, Superintendent John Ramos apologized for the “culturally sensitive” assignment and the posters were taken down.

"We certainly understand and respect the strong reaction which some parents had to seeing slave auction posters included with other artwork from the assignment," Ramos said in a statement. "We are rethinking the Colonial America Project for next year, and will eliminate the example of a slave auction poster."

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Just a few weeks later, however, a project for another 5th grade class in the district angered parents. They reportedly learned there had been a mock slave auction of a black child at Jefferson Elementary School. 

“There was a sale of a black child by white children in the classroom,” Tracey Jarmon-Woods, the parent of one of the students in the class, told CBSNews, “If you’re demoralized — sold on a block in 2017 — it may affect you the rest of your life.”

The principal later said in a letter to parents that the impromptu reenactment of a slave auction by students was done while the teacher was out for a medical procedure and a substitute was in charge of the class.

“The activity was not part of the curriculum, not part of the teacher’s assignment, not condoned by the classroom teacher, and not authorized by the district,” the statement said.

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Parents, however, are still not pleased and a town meeting will reportedly be held to discuss the issue. A school social worker will speak with 5th graders at Jefferson Elementary on Tuesday, according to reports.

“If this was the Holocaust and people said, 'Let's break up into two lines,' people would freak out,” Malespina said.

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