Watch CBS News

Investigation Launched At Calumet City School Due To Controversial Black History Month Assignment

CALUMET CITY, Ill. (CBS) -- A controversial Black History Month school assignment has launched an investigation at a south suburban school. One parent said he could not believe the project his son was assigned.

The student's father was just checking over his son's homework when he came across that assignment. He hopes this will serve as a learning opportunity moving forward

At Wentworth Junior High School in Calumet City, the recent online project assigned to a group of special education students reads "enslaved Africans traveled the middle passage in terrible conditions—one thing we learned is that the slaves had a space that measured 6 feet long and 16 inches wide."

Students were then asked to make a video showing that amount of space and how they would fit in it.

"I was confused. I was angry," said parent James Wright. "I was just really offended by that."

Wright's 12-year-old son was one of the students who received the assignment. He is a student enrolled with Exceptional Children Have Opportunities Joint Agreement—a Special Education Cooperative in south Cook County.

"Our standard curriculum does not include this specific assignment and we are committed to determining through our investigation the circumstances, context and intentions related to this matter. We are strongly committed to a diverse, inclusive and non-discriminatory educational experience for all our students and will continue to work to ensure our class assignments reflect these values," said Sandra Thomas, superintendent of ECHO Joint Agreement.

"Even trying to visualize the question was really off-putting to me," Wright said. 

An investigation is underway. Wright sent an email to the teacher, and she responded saying, "The unit explored why people came to America (some people came by choice, others were forced). I understand your perspective and will not use this assignment in the future. I agree and now see how insensitive I was."

The teacher is not employed by Calumet School District 155. The ECHO uses Wentworth Junior High School to operate its program in Calumet City. The student is also not enrolled at the school.

She apologized for it and that she would take it out of her curriculum from here on out.

"There is a way to teach Black history," Wright said.

He said this assignment is not the way to teach his child or any child about history.

NOTE:  This story has been updated to include additional information about the ECHO Joint Agreement – a Special Education Cooperative in South Cook County. It also adds that the teacher in not employed by the district, nor is the student enrolled at the school. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.