MEHLVILLE, Mo. — The Mehlville School District superintendent is promising changes and training following a ‘culturally insensitive’ assignment for students.
Fifth graders at Blades Elementary School were participating in a ‘Colonial Market Assignment.’ One of the questions in the activity read, ‘You own a plantation or farm and therefore need more workers. You begin to get involved in the slave trade industry and have slaves work on your farm. Your product to trade is slaves.’ And then it said, ‘Set your price for a slave. _________ These could be worth a lot.’
The school’s principal addressed the question with parents Monday, expressing ‘significant remorse.’
On Tuesday, the school district’s superintendent Chris Gaines sent a letter to families apologizing for the incident and saying he was disappointed in what happened at the school.
Gaines added that the school district will be devoting time and resources to train staff ‘on issues related to cultural competency, implicit bias and equity.’
This is the full letter from Superintendent Gaines:
Dear Mehlville staff and families,
Last week students at Blades Elementary participated in an activity related to a Colonial marketplace. Students traded and sold goods during this classroom activity. Unfortunately, slaves were included as goods to be sold. Asking a student to participate in a simulated activity that puts a price on a person is not acceptable.
Racism of any kind, even inadvertently stemming from cultural bias, is wrong and is not who we aspire to be as a school district. I am sorry and disappointed that this happened in our school.
There is no quick fox for cultural bias. We will be devoting significant time and resources to train our staff on issues related to cultural competency, implicit bias and equity.
As stated in our district mission, we are committed to creating a culture of improvement for staff and students. I appreciate your support as we work together as a school district to learn from this event and ensure we prevent things like this from happening again.
Chris Gaines, Ed.D.
Mehlville School District