A history teacher at Ellicott City’s Mount Hebron High School, in Maryland, returned from a four-day-long suspension on Tuesday after complaints from students and parents about an assignment asking the students to write “fun” songs about slavery as part of a lesson plan about Frederick Douglas.
According to Mount Hebron principal Andrew Cockley, the lesson, which he described as “culturally insensitive,” was meant to help students understand “how language can be used effectively to convey feelings and important messages.”
“The teacher has apologized to all students given the assignment and their parents,” Cockley said in an e-mail to parents. “The assignment has been removed.”
Speaking to the Baltimore Sun, Howard County Superintendent Renee Foose said the assignment wasn’t actually part of the school’s approved lesson plans and attributed the offensive lesson to the teacher’s relative inexperience. Foose did not say how long the teacher, who has not been identified, had been working at the school when they were suspended.
Despite the fact that Mount Hebron’s administrators apologized and temporarily removed the teacher from their post, Foose explained that the school is still struggling to cope with backlash from its student body that’s about 47% white and 14% black.
“Some thought we shouldn’t have apologized; some thought we were too quick to apologize,” Foose told the paper. “I do not believe you can ever be too quick to apologize.”
In January, some 150 students walked out of the school in protest of a racist video that made its way online in which a white Mount Hebron student called black people an inferior race and questioned the point of Black Lives Matter.
“Who the [expletive] cares about some black man who dies,” the student questioned in the video. “Does anybody really care?”
Back in January, black students organized a protest as a means of getting Mount Hebron’s administrators to start a conversation about what students say is an ongoing problem with race relations at the school.