Teacher Under Fire For Misguided Slavery Lesson
White Instructor Said To Have Taped Hands And Feet Of 2 Black Middle Schoolers, Made Them Crawl Under Desk
HAVERSTRAW, N.Y. (CBS) ― Reenactments and demonstrations can be helpful teaching tools, but did a Rockland County teacher take that approach too far? She's under fire for binding the hands of black students and having them sit under a desk during a lesson on slavery.
Christine Shand says it was a terrible experience for her daughter, Gaby, descended, like most Jamaicans, from slaves.
"She burst into tears, she was crying and she was horrified," Shand told CBS 2 HD.
In a social studies class at Haverstraw Middle School, teacher Eileen Bernstein chose Gaby and another girl for a demonstration of conditions on ships that carried slaves out of Africa.
One African-American student raised her hand to volunteer for the demonstration. Gaby did not volunteer, but was chosen anyway.
"She taped their hands together, taped their feet together, and she had them crawl under the desk as if they were on a slave ship," her mother told CBS 2.
Mrs. Shand said Gaby was traumatized. She questions the teacher's judgment.
"There are other ways to demonstrate slavery. There's movies, you don't actually have to grab two kids and like put shackles on them," she said.
Wilbur Aldridge, the regional NAACP director, went with the Shands Thursday to meet Bernstein.
"She said she apologized for causing any problems for the child, but she was not apologizing for using that simulation during the class," Aldridge said.
But Principal Avis Shelby apologized, calling the slave ship demonstration a "bad decision."
"And we have things in place to make sure it doesn't occur again," Shelby added.
Mrs. Shand said she's still not satisfied and is mulling her options, worrying about how Gaby will perform the rest of the school year.
In the meantime, Mrs. Bernstein has remained in the classroom. Because it's a personnel issue, school officials won't say if she's been disciplined or reprimanded.