A 5th grade teacher returned from dental surgery to find her students had "orchestrated a mock slave auction" and put it all on video, according to

The incident at a Maplewood, New Jersey school, supervised by a substitute teacher, has parents understandably furious.

"There was a sale of a black child by white children in the classroom," one parent told CBS New York. "If you're demoralized—sold on a block in 2017—it may affect you the rest of your life."

"I'm disgusted, really disgusted a child was bought," said another. "That doesn't make any sense."


The students were in the midst of their "colonization unit" but the reenactment of a slave auction was decidedly not part of the curriculum. Upon returning to class, the students' regular teacher promptly sent a letter home to parents.

"I was concerned about the students who viewed and participated in this re-enactment and would like to convey this event to you so we can address the students' perceptions as a whole," she wrote.

After fury over the slave auction reenactment, the school sent a letter home to parents expounding on the incident, according to ABC News:


The jovial nature of the video suggests that either there is a lack of understanding about the true barbarity of a slave auction, or a lack of awareness of how treating this topic comically is offensive."

We believe that additional work remains to help our students consider how their actions can have a negative impact on others, even if unintended, how joking about slavery is disrespectful to all Americans, especially to the African American community, and that certain matters should be treated with a degree of heightened sensitivity.

According to the Huffington Post, the school district stated they did "not condone the activity" and blamed the substitute, saying they would "look again at training and improved supervisory protocols for substitutes."


Compounding the issue is the fact that another school in the same New Jersey school district recently caused a similar controversy when students made posters advertising slave auctions.

Obviously, it's important that children are educated about the brutality of slavery and its legacy in American history. So schools, really, please use better judgment.