After Teacher Told Kids to Draw Themselves as Slaves, District Stepped In

Sketchy and potentially traumatizing middle-school assignment raised a lot of eyebrows — and ire

Tonya Jennings, a mom in the Austin, Texas, area, was shocked last week when her seventh-grader came home with an assignment instructing her to draw and color herself as a slave.

The assignment also involved the 12-year-old using her five senses to imagine and write about the surroundings in which she, as a slave, might find herself.

The student at Four Points Middle School — part of the Leander district — received the assignment as part of a packet the class needed to complete on the Civil War. The disturbing assignment was the only one in the packet that mentioned slavery, ABC’s KVUE reported.

“There’s nothing about slavery that I would want any child, regardless of color, to have to relive,” the mom, Tonya Jennings, told the station.

Earlier this week, the district’s chief communications officer, Corey Ryan, told the Houston Chronicle. “It’s not something the school is going to keep doing.”

Parents were wondering why kids they’d placed in the district’s care would be asked to draw themselves in traumatic and humiliating circumstances — and to make matters worse, why the assignment doubled down on its disturbing art component by having them use their “five senses” to write about what they’d drawn and visualized.

In the district’s statement about the issue, it offered the following context for the assignment: “The state curriculum for seventh-grade history expects students to explain reasons for Texas’ involvement in the Civil War, including states’ rights, slavery, sectionalism and tariffs. The state also asks students to be able to identify points of view from the historical context surrounding an event and the frame of reference that influenced the participants.”

The good news is that kids at Four Points will no longer be required to draw, imagine, and write about themselves as slaves in the future.

The bad news is that the assignment ever made it to students’ desks in the first place.

Related: Our Kids Are Being Taught They’re ‘Flawed’ if They’re White

Dr. Arie Friedman, who describes himself as a Desert Storm veteran and “simple country pediatrician” in his Twitter bio, weighed in on the matter, saying this:

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Other comments on the issue include these:

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Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.