A pair of elementary school teachers in Manhattan are facing disciplinary action stemming from a homework assignment that involved word problems using examples of slaves being whipped and dying on slave ships.
A student teacher at P.S. 59 in Manhattan brought the issue to school officials after she was asked to photocopy a worksheet to be given as homework for a fourth-grade class taught by Jacqueline Vitucci. The assignment featured questions such as “One slave got whipped five times a day. How many times did he get whipped in a month (31 days)? Another slave got whipped nine times a day. How many times did he get whipped in a month? How many times did the two slaves get whipped together in one month?”
The student teacher, Aziza Harding, refused to photocopy the worksheet and used another one instead while bringing the issue to administrators. The worksheet also included a question about a ship filled with 3,799 slaves, asking “One day, the slaves took over the ship. 1,897 are dead. How many slaves are alive?”
The assignment had been created a month earlier by fourth-grade social studies teacher Jane Youn, who was teaching her students the history of slavery and used the topic during a math lesson, according to the New York City Department of Education. The students were asked to create word problems based on their lesson about slavery, and Vitucci used the same worksheet created by Youn’s class.
“This is obviously unacceptable and we will take appropriate disciplinary action against these teachers,” the DOE said in a statement issued to TODAY.com. “The Chancellor spoke to the principal, and she has already taken steps to ensure this does not happen again.”
“I am appalled by this and will be meeting with staff as well as families,’’ P.S. 59 principal Adele Schroeter said in a statement. “I have already met with the teacher and have arranged for training around this issue for the entire staff at my school.”
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