District sends letter home to parents, 'After taking these steps it was determined that the assignment is inappropriate, offensive and unacceptable.'By Meghan Schiller

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

SOUTH FAYETTE TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — The South Fayette Township School District says they have suspended a teacher over a controversial social studies assignment on the topic of slavery.

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According to the district, a student alerted the administration to the piece of homework and they were then able to review it.

“After taking these steps it was determined that the assignment is inappropriate, offensive and unacceptable,” reads a letter issued to parents and families in the district on Wednesday afternoon.

Concerned students and parents reached out to KDKA about a 10th grade assignment titled “Is the slave trade profitable?”

“It was just very uncomfortable because I was the only person of color in my class,” said 11th grader Aliyah Emanuel.

“I just thought it was a little weird since all the protests and 2020, how it was pretty hectic and overwhelming,” said 10th grader Elijah Hill.

Both high schoolers said they completed the assignment in the same teacher’s World Cultures class.

“It’s just shocking that my son had to sit in class and figure out the price that his ancestors were bought and sold for,” said Leigh Hill, Elijah’s mother.

In addition to suspending the teacher, the administration says the assignment in question will no longer be used and they will put in place a process to make sure any other inappropriate assignments are identified and removed.

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The assignment asks for students to imagine themselves as retired captains in the British Navy, looking to join the slave trade business. Students needed to determine “if the trading of Africans can be profitable using either kind of ‘pack.'”

“One of the benefits of having a tight pack would be you would get more people over, but one of the disadvantages is a lot of people would die from sickness and all of that,” said Aliyah. “We had to determine which would be more beneficial and which would make more money.”

“You’re trying to make my child pretend she’s a slave trader and how much is she worth?” asked Sarah Emanuel, Aliyah’s mother. “How is that going to make a child of color feel?”

Mothers Sarah Emanuel and Leigh Hill believe no student should complete the exercise.

“Because being silent about it and brushing it under the rug like is always happening is not going to get anything solved,” said Hill.

The letter to families goes on to say, “As part of the 2019-2022 Strategic Plan, the District has put much effort and resources into creating an equitable, inclusive environment through policy reform, student advocacy, hiring practices and other areas. However, as this assignment demonstrates, there is more critical work to do to ensure that our curriculum, instruction, and climate provide culturally inclusive experiences for all of our students.”

  • Click here to read the full letter from the district.

The district is also praising the student for speaking up.

“We commend the student for speaking up about this assignment and apologize for the harm that this has caused. The voices of our young people are important and heard,” according to the letter.

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“I just wish the school was more sensitive and they understood,” said Aliyah. “I know they’re trying but they need to try harder than they are right now.”

Meghan Schiller