VENTNOR — A teacher accused of giving a racist slavery lesson has been cleared after an investigation by the local school board.
Ventnor Board of Education President James Pacanowski said Thursday that after a monthlong investigation, which included speaking with teachers and students, the board found “no basis for any disciplinary action.”
“The conclusion was that the lesson was done within the parameters of the lesson plan and all state guidelines,” he said.
Pacanowski said a statement providing similar information was read at Wednesday’s school board meeting.
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The investigation was triggered in March when city resident and parent Randi Carter-Alston said her 10-year-old daughter, Le’anni, came to her upset and confused after a lesson on slavery at Ventnor Elementary School. She said a teacher told the class slavery had positive attributes. Carter-Alston, who is black, said her daughter was the only black student in the class at the time.
Carter-Alston then took a video of her daughter explaining the lesson, which she posted to Facebook asking for advice and stirring debate.
Carter-Alston said Thursday she was heartbroken by the findings of the board. She said she was unable to make Wednesday’s meeting but said she had reached out to the board attorney several times without receiving a response.
“It’s extremely disheartening to learn that they have concluded that no wrongdoing has been done. I no longer have to wonder if they agree with or think that what was said/taught was OK, they just proved it,” Carter-Alston wrote in an email Thursday. “We have so far to go if this is what schools are teaching our children. I’m just sad for my daughter.”
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Attorney Eric Goldstein, who represents the anonymous teacher, said his client was pleased with the outcome of the investigation.
“The Board of Education confirmed what my client and I have said all along, which is that the defamatory information previously stated about my client was incorrect and it is truly unfortunate that she has been subjected to criticism because of this alleged incident,” Goldstein said. “An innocent child, perhaps unknowingly, passed along factually incorrect information to her mother.”
Pacanowski said it was the board’s ethical obligation to investigate and that the board used an impartial investigator from the board attorney’s office. He said the investigation included talking to Carter-Alston’s daughter.
Asked whether the board would review the slavery lesson, Pacanowski said every year, the district reviews lesson plans to determine whether they are appropriate and fit within the state guidelines.
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Last week, a Texas charter school teacher was placed on leave after handing out a worksheet asking students to list the positive and negative attributes of slavery. The school district has apologized and promised to review the textbook for the class. Pacanowski said he didn’t know all of the details of that incident but didn’t believe the two were the same.
“It wasn’t really an apples-to-apples situation,” Pacanowski said.
Carter-Alston said she is unsure what steps she will take in pursuing the matter, but she won’t give up.
“It’s bigger than just my child. I wonder if they would feel that way if the teacher said that there were ‘good reasons’ for the Holocaust or for sex/child trafficking?” Carter-Alston wrote.