‘3 good reasons for slavery’ homework assignment sparks controversy

MILWAUKEE, WI – A homework assignment at a Wisconsin Christian school sparked backlash after a teacher asked students to list “three good reasons for slavery.”

Fourth-grade students at Our Redeemer Lutheran School were handed a group assignment on Monday in English class.   The question: “give three ‘good’ reasons for slavery and three bad reasons.”

One parent said she was shocked and offended.

“It’s highly offensive and insensitive. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe they sent something like that home,” parent Trameka Brown-Berry said.

Brown-Berry is the mother of a 9-year-old boy in the class.

“Not only was my son in an awful position, but the students who weren’t black, because it’s that sort of mentality of not being able to see from another’s perspective and only seeing your lens– that’s what dangerous. That’s what keeps racism going,” Brown-Berry said.

The school’s principal Jim Van Dellen declined to speak with reporters, but admitted that the assignment was out of line.

Van Dellen said in a letter sent on Tuesday to parents and students, “The purpose of the assignment was not, in any way, to have students argue that any slavery is acceptable.”

He said the assignment, which Van Dellen said was intended to spark debate, is no longer part of the curriculum.

“And for it to be a Christian school, they could have said something like, ‘What are three good things we can do to prevent slavery from happening?” Andrea Michel, with Safe Place Meeting Group, said.

The principal vowed to better communicate sensitive subjects being discussed in class with parents before presenting it to students.

Brown-Berry said the homework assignment should be a lesson to us all, and that’s the reason she posted it online.

“Speak up, tell your story and voice your opinion because that is how you go about change. And that is what I was trying to model for my son,” Brown-Berry said.

The principal said he will meet with Brown-Berry parent face-to-face on Wednesday.

It is unclear if the teacher was disciplined.



Apologies sent

The school, 10025 W. North Ave., sent letters of apology to the families of its 240 students through email. The K-8 school does not use state vouchers, Van Dellen said.

Brown-Berry in a later post said Van Dellen promptly addressed her concerns and apologized right away.