Teacher who held mock slave auction and used racial slurs suspended, superintendent says

Teacher who held mock slave auction and used racial slurs suspended, superintendent says

A Boston-area fifth-grade teacher who held a mock slave auction and used a racial epithet during instruction has been placed on paid leave, the local schools superintendent said.

Gregory L. Martineau, superintendent of Northborough and Southborough Public Schools, wrote a letter to parents Wednesday detailing the incidents and expressing his apology.

The teacher at Margaret A. Neary Elementary School in Southborough, Massachusetts, about 30 miles west of Boston, held a mock slave auction in January as part of a history lesson on the economy of the Southern colonies, she said. Martineau.

As part of the impromptu auction, the educator gave examples of two children of color who were at the front of the room, discussing attributes such as teeth and strength, the superintendent said.

Martineau said such instructional methods are unacceptable as they can traumatize black students and trivialize the horrors of slavery.

In April, the same teacher read and discussed a book that is not part of the curriculum, the superintendent said, adding that the teacher used the N-word, which Martineau said does not appear on the pages of the book.

The state teachers union did not immediately respond to a request for comment and the local union could not be reached.

Martineau said he learned of both incidents on April 24. A meeting was held that included the teacher and the school principal to “be transparent with families and take responsibility for mistakes,” she said.

But the next day, the professor, apparently having learned the identity of at least one of the students who complained about one of the two incidents, “called the student,” Martineau said.

He said pointing at the student was “not acceptable.”

The teacher was placed on leave and is undergoing “due process procedures” that could determine his status with the district, Martineau said. The school’s principal received 10 days of paid leave in May, the superintendent said.

Sarah Alinovi, a parent who plans to enroll her child in Southborough Public Schools, expressed concern that similar incidents occurred twice.

“If it happens over and over again, then, you know, it needs to be addressed,” he told NBC Boston.

Rahsaan Hall, president of the Eastern Massachusetts Urban League, told the station that the incidents could provide a teachable moment for the school district.

“They should certainly be intentional and proactive about developing practices and engaging the community on these difficult issues,” Hall said.

The superintendent apologized to the teacher’s students and took responsibility for “missteps” in the district’s initial reaction.

“I apologize for the events that took place at Southborough Public Schools,” Martineau said. “I recognize that there were missteps in this process that further complicated the situation. Ultimately, I am responsible for ensuring that students are in safe and supportive learning environments.”

A plan aimed at ensuring teachers have “cultural competence” is being developed with the goal of being implemented in the fall. he said.