Parents in South Fayette furious over controversial homework assignment

SOUTH FAYETTE, Pa. — A South Fayette homework assignment is now under scrutiny.

The assignment in question, given to high school students, asks students to figure out if they could turn a profit as a slave trader, and whether they could make more money “tightly packing” or “loosely packing” slaves on a ship.

Several parents say this homework assignment is insensitive and needs to be removed from the curriculum permanently.

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

Her son, Elijah, got the assignment.

“I thought it was a little weird with all the protests in 2020 and how it was hectic and overwhelming,” he said.

“It was very uncomfortable because I was the only person of color in my class and I had to work with other white students. It was uncomfortable having to put a price on people,” said Aliya Emanuel, a student who received the assignment.

The district sent Channel 11 a statement reading:

Dear Parents and Guardians,

“A concern from a student was brought to the attention of our administration regarding a social studies assignment about slavery. While the District does have defined and approved curricula, teachers have some latitude in the resources and materials they choose to use in their lessons.

Once alerted to the existence of this assignment, the administration reviewed the assignment and met with the teacher. After taking these steps it was determined that the assignment is inappropriate, offensive and unacceptable. The assignment will no longer be used in any class and the teacher has been suspended. Further, we will engage in a systematic process to ensure that any other inappropriate assignments are identified and removed immediately.

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. Our Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is working with our curriculum leaders and teaching staff to address these needs to ensure that all curricular topics are taught through a culturally-responsive lens in the future to give all our students the best educational experience possible.

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.

Sincerely, Dr. Ken Lockette”