WAXHAW, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE)- Union County Public Schools is apologizing for an “unacceptable” Civil War lesson after fourth graders created mock tweets saying “Slavery For Life” and “Slavery Forever.”
A photo showing the posts was then shared on the school’s Facebook page and hung up on the classroom wall as something the students were “most proud of.”
“This is a slap in the face,” said Kimberly Morrison-Hansley with the Union County NAACP, after FOX 46 shared photos of the class assignment with her.
Following Black History Month, fourth graders at Waxhaw Elementary were told to make up tweets from the point-of-view of a historical figure. In the Facebook post, which has since been deleted, the school says students “studied North Carolinians that had different roles and perspectives on the Civil War.”
One student wrote on paper the handle “@dontStopSlavery” and said, “you may not agree with slavery but I do and I’m honest about it. #Slaveryforlife” Another student chose the name “Confederate4life” and wrote, “why do we need to leave the county. We can stay and our slaves! #SLAVERYFOREVER.”
The “tweets,” which were taped to the classroom wall, do not mention any historical figure by name. None of the ones highlighted on the school’s Facebook page were anti-slavery. FOX 46 asked which historical figures the “tweets” were supposed to represent but did not get an answer.
District officials held an all-staff meeting with staff and apologized in a statement after FOX 46 began asking questions.
The school is about 20 minutes from the Monroe County Courthouse, where a Confederate monument has stood since 1910. Last year, a Union County school board member resigned after making racist posts on social media.
Morrison-Hansley says students in the Union County schools have experienced racism. In response to this and other issues, the district created a diversity advisory committee, which Morrison-Hansley is on,to address these issues and promote racial sensitivity. The group is getting ready to present its recommendations in a few days but shouldn’t wait until then to make changes, Morrison-Hansley said.
“The district has to take this very seriously, she said. “Someone needs to say something. And most of all, it needs to be an apology. And assure us it won’t happen again.”
FOX 46 was alerted to the Facebook post by a parent who said it is making her think twice about sending her kid to the school.
“This type of assignment is unacceptable,” said UCPS spokesperson Tahira Stalberte. “And we apologize for offending parents, staff, students and members of our community.”
The assignment, she said, was “intended to help students analyze events from the Pre-Colonial period to Reconstruction through the perspective of a key historical figure.”
Stalberte says the district takes this “very seriously.” On Thursday, hours after contacted by FOX 46, administrators held an all-staff meeting at Waxhaw Elementary and is developing training sessions for everyone to “address diversity, equity and inclusion.”
“We are committed to working with teachers to discuss best practices for instruction,” Stalberte said.
Morrison-Hansley plans to bring this up at next month’s school board meeting, where she is scheduled to speak.
“My mom is a retired teacher of 30 years,” she said. “She would not have done that because she’s Black. She would not have done that because it’s the wrong thing to do. It was not smart. It was not a good decision. Point blank. Period.”
Union County Public Schools Statement
“Union County Public Schools is extremely concerned about the fourth-grade activity that took place at Waxhaw Elementary. This type of assignment is unacceptable, and we apologize for offending parents, staff, students and members of our community.
As part of a research project about North Carolinians, the assignment was intended to help students analyze events from the Pre-Colonial period to Reconstruction through the perspective of a key historical figure.
District administrators are taking this matter very seriously and met with the entire Waxhaw Elementary staff today. In addition, the Twitter Wall has been removed.
UCPS is actively developing training sessions for all employees to address diversity, equity and inclusion. We are committed to working with teachers to discuss best practices for instruction.” –Tahira Stalberte, UCPS Spokesperson
Waxhaw Mayor Pro Tem Statement
FOX 46 reached out to Mayor Pro Tem Brenda McMillon for comment and receive the following statement:
“Earlier today I was made aware of the Waxhaw Elementary School fourth grade assignment. While I am extremely disappointed to have learned about this assignment, I hope that the actions of one or a few do not define our community or our school system. I know that District Administrators met with the entire Waxhaw Elementary School staff today and hope they understand the issue and are taking the matter very seriously.” –Waxhaw Mayor Pro Tem Brenda McMillon
Union County NAACP
The Education Committee Chairperson for the Union County NAACP provided FOX 46 with this statement:
“This type of thinking is not uncommon in Union County. The question that we have to ask is, exactly what did they read and what did it say for them to respond “that it was good and to keep it” as well as who taught the class and did they add a perspective that would encourage such an egregious response.
The tweet that the students were most proud of is indicative of the thoughts, values, and oppressive practices of the families and leadership here in Union County. These are just children that need to be taught how treacherous and demonic slavery was and that black people are still suffering from the residue of it today.” –Selina Campbell, Education Committee Chairperson, Union County NAACP
North Carolina NAACP
North Carolina Central University Professor of Law Irv Joyner, who is also the Chair of legal redress for the North Carolina NAACP, told FOX 46 it was “regrettable” that the school posted the photo on its official Facebook page. He worries it will “unnecessarily arouse racial animosity and antagonism” among students and parents.
Teachers and administrators “might needed to engage in racial diversity training,” he said.