The high school teacher was placed on administrative leave and the private school is facing criticism after students in a biology class were handed an assignment worksheet with racial offense. Now, the school officials are trying to determine the teacher’s intent with the assignment. “On behalf of the school’s leadership, we want to acknowledge the disturbing racial offense contained in an assignment with an upper school class last week. The choice to use this piece of curriculum was completely inconsistent with our School’s philosophy and mission and we sincerely apologize for its use and the harm it has caused.” the school officials said in a statement.
This incident occurred last week at the Roeper School, which is the oldest K through 12 school for gifted children in Michigan. According to MLIVE, students in a high school biology class were given an assignment titled ‘an introduction to primates’ and former President Barack Obama’s photo was listed. The assignment worksheet reportedly asked students to select from the gallery of photos which ones were primates. The high school teacher, who was not identified, reportedly asked students in an assignment: “Which of the following are primates?”
The worksheet reportedly originated from a Duke University undergraduate assignment. The worksheet, titled “Apes, Monkeys, and Lemurs: An Introduction to Primates,” featured pictures of various animals and asked students to check off the pictures of primates. A headshot of Obama was placed between pictures of two animals, according to WDIV.
Spokesperson reportedly said that the university was unaware of the worksheet’s existence, and it was never used in lesson plans at the university and was not promoted as a teaching resource.
According to FOX 2 News, the school was closed on Thursday, May 19, after threats were made online and the biology teacher was placed on administrative leave.
During an interview with WDIV, Carolyn Lett, the Director of Diversity for the school, reportedly said:
“When I saw it I couldn’t believe it, is it something that the teacher did. You know, purposefully put this picture in along with the animals and the apes and the primates. I’m trying to understand this myself. But right away I had a reaction. like, ‘it’s so wrong I can’t understand it.’ She had her biology hat on but didn’t realize the sensitivity and awareness she should have had culturally.”
According to WDIV, the Roeper School officials released a statement and said that the worksheet is completely inconsistent with the school’s philosophy and mission and that they apologize for its use and the harm it has caused.
“On behalf of Roeper School’s leadership, we want to acknowledge the disturbing racial offense contained in an assignment with an upper school class last week. The choice to use this piece of curriculum was completely inconsistent with our School’s philosophy and mission and we sincerely apologize for its use and the harm it has caused. While the teacher has taken responsibility and admits the mistake of not properly vetting the resource, we know that is not enough and she has been placed on administrative leave until further notice.
As a school with a deep commitment to social justice for over 80 years, we must demonstrate greater care in the selection of content designed to guide our students. We remain committed to doing the important work of educating ourselves and the community in diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, and yet on this occasion, we did not live up to those core values. We know that our work in cultural competencies is vital and must be ongoing to ensure an inclusive learning environment for our students.
To that end, we will be immediately implementing the following:
- Greater care and more thorough review of curriculum with a specific focus on cultural competencies.
- Continuing professional development for faculty and staff in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice work with a specific focus on racial bias and cultural competencies.”