LETTER BY YWCA MADISON CEO VANESSA McDOWELL
Dear Superintendent Saron and Members of the Sun Prairie School Board of Education,
YWCA Madison is deeply disturbed by the 6th-grade social studies assignment asking students how they would punish a slave. We cannot imagine how anyone would find this assignment to be anything other than that what it is– racist, offensive, and unacceptable.
There is no excuse for traumatizing Black students, and all students, by making them imagine themselves as slave owners and role-play how they would punish another human being. For your African American students, you asked them to imagine how they and their ancestors would be beaten and to empathize with the person beating them. That is outrageous.
We are exhausted. It is not hard to recognize that the assignment is racist. Unfortunately, not only did your teachers give the assignment, but they doubled-down when they defended it. We are terrified that those teaching history to our children are incapable of seeing that.
This requires much more than an apology. This was not a rogue actor, it was an assignment approved by multiple teachers. This is an institutional problem, and it can only be eradicated by intentional systematic and cultural change. The district must take full responsibility, and the district must take full oversight of the curriculum and dismantle the systems that led to this assignment. The responsible teachers should be terminated, as there can be no explanation for their complete lack of judgment.
This mirrors the district’s own equity framework, which pledges “responsibility to interrupt systemic racism toward our black and brown children and families and to collaboratively dismantle, rebuild, and align our system for racial equity”.
We expect you to take swift, immediate action.
About YWCA Madison
YWCA Madison is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen our community. YWCA Madison is part of an international movement serving over 2 million in the United States and 25 million worldwide. For comprehensive information about this important work, go to www.ywcamadison.org and www.ywca.org.