Slavery assignment in Nyack school irks parents

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NYACK -

An assignment dealing with slavery at Nyack Middle School did not sit well with some parents. 

One teacher was using a 1997 text book that was not approved by the Board of Education to teach a class about slavery.

Parents News 12 spoke to say a few students were asked to read a passage and complete a worksheet about a slave ship. One task asked students to "role-play" people aboard – who were for and against the slave trade.

A student in the seventh-grade class says the assignment was not mandatory, but more of an "extra challenge." 

The Nyack NAACP says they were called to meet with the district.

"They laid it out for us, showed us the material, not trying to conceal anything and asked for our advice," said Oscar Cohen, of the Nyack NAACP. 

The NAACP says multiple perspectives are important teaching tools. However, Cohen says, "When it comes to race, religion – you need to be very careful about what you want, especially a child, to think about in terms of what could be going on in the minds of the oppressor."

The superintendent has since sent out a letter to parents apologizing for the incident. It says the teacher has been counseled to only use resources approved by the Board of Education. 

The Nyack NAACP applauded the district for resolving the issue.

"This is a teachable moment," said Cohen. 

In a statement to News 12,  the Nyack School District says, "Our administration and Board of Education are committed to the work of undoing systemic racism...We are using this as an opportunity to learn more and will keep an open dialogue with our school community."
 

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