‘A grave error in judgment:’ Sun Prairie teachers placed on administrative leave for virtual lesson

Sun Prairie school assignment

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. — The Sun Prairie Area School District is apologizing for what it calls a “grave error in judgment” by a group of middle school teachers who developed a classroom activity the district says was not “racially conscious.”

A picture of the assignment was shared by a parent of a 6th grade student at Patrick Marsh Middle School.

In the screenshot, the assignment includes a prompt that reads “A slave stands before you. This slave has disrespected his master by telling him ‘You are not my master!’ How will you punish this slave?” with a box asking for the student’s response and another box that says “According to Hammurabi’s Code: put to death.”

The student’s mother called the incident disturbing.

She told News 3 Now that her son came out of his room with his laptop expressing that he was uncomfortable completing the assignment. The student’s mother looked through the assignment and emailed the teacher, asking to explain what the point of the assignment was.

She said the teacher responded saying the assignment would be taken down. When the student’s mother said she asked who approved the lesson plan, the teacher said she didn’t know it would be offensive and thought it would be a good discussion for the students to have.

In a letter to parents, Superintendent Brad Saron and other district officials said they stopped any further teaching of the lesson and made a direct apology to the students in the class and their families.

The district says their preliminary investigation found the lesson was not part of the district’s curriculum, and is not consistent with the School Board’s vision for the district or their commitment to equity and cultural responsiveness.

“We deeply regret that this lesson took place, and we also recognize that this was a breakdown in our curricular processes and our district-wide focus on equity,” the district said in its statement.

The email also stated that the teachers involved were placed on administrative leave, consisted with district procedures.

Baron said the Student Services team will follow up with students who were asked to complete the assignment and will make support available to students to help them process the incident.