A mother in northwest Austin, Texas, is questioning why Four Points Middle School gave her 12-year-old daughter an assignment to draw and color a picture of herself as a slave.
"There's nothing about slavery that I would want any child, regardless of color, to have to relive," the girl's mother, Tonya Jennings, told KVUE-TV.
When the seventh-grader came home from school, she took the assignment out of her backpack and showed her mom what it said on the last page.
"I turn it, and then, of course, my eye is drawn to the title, 'Making Sense with the Senses.' And then I read the four points. And I stopped after reading, 'Draw a picture of yourself as a slave.' I just stopped right there," Jennings told KVUE.
The assignment goes on to ask students to "color the picture and to describe what they would smell, hear, see, taste, and touch if they were a slave in the Civil War."
"I realized I had to explain to her what this meant or what they were trying to get to. And then I realized I didn't know what they were trying to get to or what they were trying to do," Jennings told the TV station.
Jennings pointed out that the rest of the assignment concerns the Civil War, but it does not mention slavery.
"It is completely out of place," she said. "It just doesn't even go with the packet at all. To ask my child to put herself in a situation where she has to draw herself as a slave was an issue just, you know, all the way up the board," she said.
How did the school district respond?
The Leander Independent School District defended the assignment by sending the TV station the following statement:
"A parent contacted Four Points Middle School earlier today with a concern about a Texas History lesson regarding the Civil War and the role of slavery. The campus quickly responded to the parent to hear his concerns and discuss the situation. When teaching sensitive content, we strive to deliver lessons with care and context to our students.
The tragic impacts of slavery are well documented and relevant to our state and nation’s history. The state curriculum for seventh-grade history expects students to explain reasons for Texas’ involvement in the Civil War, including states' rights, slavery, sectionalism and tariffs. The state also asks students to be able to identify points of view from the historical context surrounding an event and the frame of reference that influenced the participants.
For more information about the seventh-grade social studies curriculum, please refer to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website, section “113.19. Social Studies, Grade 7, Beginning with School Year 2011-2012”, sub-sections five and 21."
Jennings was not satisfied with the district's response.
She plans to meet with school leaders Monday to address better ways to teach about the Civil War, the report stated.