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Tennessee school district apologizes for homework assignment telling students to pretend their families own slaves

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'Create a list of expectations for your family's slaves'

Paolo Manzo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A Tennessee school district is under fire — and has apologized — after assigning homework that asked students to pretend their families own slaves.

What are the details of the assignment?

The homework assignment — which was sent out to eighth graders at Sunset Middle School in Brentwood — also touched upon child labor and immigration.

Dan Fountain, the brother of one of the students, shared an image of the homework on Twitter.

"What are y'alls thoughts on my sisters HW?" he wrote.

One section of the homework instructed students, "Your family owns slaves. Create a list of expectations for your family's slaves."

Another section of the assignment requested that students write song lyrics or poetry to "compare and contrast the lives of plantation owners and their slave population."

"It initially made me angry," Fountain said, according to the Tennessean. "The fact that my sister is one of a couple of black kids at her school, I can't let things like this sit around and slide. The way the questions were phrased and laid out had no academic merit."

He added, "I don't like the aspect that my sister is describing how she would be treated as a slave. It doesn't benefit anyone."

Another portion of the assignment directed students to "create a political cartoon depicting immigrant labor in the United States."

"There's no sense in depicting immigrants in this way," Fountain added. "You are essentially letting children run wild with their conscious or unconscious bias of other people."

What did the school say?

The two teachers behind the assignment apologized in a statement:

This week, we gave our students an assignment we recognize was inappropriate. We have pulled the assignment, and no grade will be given. We have and will be apologizing to our students. It was never our intention to hurt any of our students. The assignment was insensitive, and it did not promote Sunset Middle's goal of an inclusive environment. Please accept our sincere apologies.

Tim Brown, the school's principal, also issued an apology:

I recognize this assignment was inappropriate, and steps are being taken to rectify this situation. I will continue to have meaningful conversations with my faculty around creating assignments that consider perspectives from all backgrounds.

Mike Looney, the school district superintendent, even apologized for the assignment:

Please accept my sincere apology for this gross error in judgement from WCS personnel. We have been providing professional training to our staff members on cultural awareness this year, but I admit that we have more work to do in this area.
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