‘Set your price for a slave’: Missouri teacher placed on leave after controversial class assignment

A social studies assignment asking fifth-grade students at a Missouri school to “set a price” for trading slaves has been called culturally insensitive and the teacher has been put on administrative leave, school officials said.

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In a letter sent to parents Monday, Blades Elementary School Principal Jeremy Booker said the assignment was supposed to teach students market value in colonial America, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“Some students who participated in this assignment were prompted to consider how plantation owners traded for goods and slaves,” Booker wrote.

According to KTVI, the controversial question read, "You own a plantation or farm and therefore need more workers. You begin to get involved in the slave trade industry and have slaves work on your farm. Your product to trade is slaves."

The question then prompts students to set a price for a slave, noting, “These could be worth a lot.”

A photograph of the question was posted Sunday on Facebook.

Other questions in the assignment focus on trading commodities like fish, grains, lumber and turpentine, KTVI reported.

John Bowman, president of the St. Louis County Chapter of the NAACP, said the assignment was “sad and unacceptable.”

"The position of the NAACP is we need a public apology," Bowman told KTVI. "There also needs to be some serious and immediate implicit bias, cultural bias, cultural difference training."

In his letter to parents, Booker said he met with the teacher, who "expressed significant remorse," the Post-Dispatch reported.

The incident is under investigation, and Booker told the newspaper he plans to institute cultural bias training for his teachers and staff members.

“We are working together to ensure all students and families feel valued and respected at Blades Elementary,” Booker wrote.

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