An eighth-grade social studies teacher at J.W. Dodd Middle School is out of the classroom and under investigation by the Freeport School District for a “poorly conceived and executed” assignment that asked students to write humorous captions under pictures of former slaves.
A district spokesperson said the teacher has been reassigned to administrative duties outside the classroom. According to a knowledgeable source, the teacher, who school officials have not named, has worked in the Freeport district for more than 20 years.
A Dodd student’s grandmother, Darlene McCurty, uploaded photos of the assignment on Facebook on Sept. 20. McCurty posted that her granddaughter’s friend was instructed by the social studies teacher to “write something funny about the pictures and make it real funny, don’t bore me."
Freeport Schools Superintendent Dr. Kishore Kuncham said the board is now finalizing an agreement with the teacher, though he did not offer further details.
Kuncham said the district began an investigation on Sept. 20 after a number of concerned parents contacted the school.
“The emotional and social wellness of our students is always our highest priority, and we take any insensitive comments made by staff very seriously,” Kuncham said.
During Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, Kuncham said, the teacher instructed three separate classes of students to write captions for pictures of post-Civil War Reconstruction Era sharecroppers.
The lesson, Kuncham said, “is an insensitive trivialization of a deeply painful era for African-Americans in this country, and it is unacceptable.”
An apology from the teacher was read at Tuesday’s board meeting. It read, in part, “It is with the deepest sense of respect that I apologize to the students, families and larger Freeport community for my insensitive words and actions last week. As a teacher and fellow member of this school community, it's my responsibility to exercise the highest degree of care and thought with all of my student and faculty interactions."
“My granddaughter’s friend refused to write anything ‘funny,” McCurty shared on Facebook. “My granddaughter was and still is very upset.”
Her post had more than 1,500 shares as of press time on Wednesday.
“Disgusting and totally insensitive,” wrote Luann Middleton, a Facebook friend of McCurty’s. “Her [teaching] license should be revoked.”
“On behalf of the Board of Education,” Kuncham said, “I want to thank the Freeport community for its patience through this investigation and reaffirm our schools as places of tolerance and understanding.”