A South Carolina 5th grade teacher is on administrative leave after posing a disturbing question: How would students justify the KKK’s actions if they were part of the Klan?
Oak Pointe Elementary School teacher Kerri Roberts sent out a homework assignment on Thursday asking students to write from the perspective of a free Black slave, as well as the emerging Ku Klux Klan. “You are there,” the worksheet starts. “You are a member of the KKK. Why do you think your treatment of African Americans is justified?”
The assignment quickly went viral after Tremain Cooper posted the worksheet on Facebook. His 10-year-old nephew received the assignment, and the student began crying after he saw the question.
“HOW CAN SHE ASK A 5TH GRADER TO JUSTIFY THE ACTIONS OF THE KKK???” Cooper wrote on Facebook. “WE ARE CONTACTING EVERYBODY FROM THE SCHOOL TO THE MEDIA. PLEASE HELP.”
“EXCUSE ME????” one user responded. “My kid would be OUT of that school so fast you wouldn’t see the streak of us heading to the courthouse to file a lawsuit!”
A school district spokeswoman has since told the New York Times that Roberts is on administrative leave as the school investigates the situation.
“South Carolina standards for fifth grade require lessons on Reconstruction and discriminatory groups, including the KKK,” Lexington-Richland School District Five spokeswoman Katrina Goggins told the Times. “We must teach the standard, but we are taking steps to ensure this particular assignment will never be used again in District Five schools.”
Roberts’ assignment suggests that freed slaves and KKK members faced comparable experiences—thinking that is obviously, dangerously false. The KKK was founded on racism and white supremacy; slaves were held captive, beaten, violated, raped, killed, and still face institutional racism and setbacks today because of those white supremacist beliefs—to barely scratch the surface.
Cooper hopes schools reflect on the messages they teach, present historical truths, and are inclusive to Black students.
“I think it’s very important that the larger issue does not go away,” Cooper said to the Times. “I think the conversation needs to continue. The conversation should be elevated but yet go deeper. I think the larger issue of class assignments and curriculums for African-American children that are more culturally sensitive and less offensive is where the conversation should go.”