In March, a private school in Bronxville, New York reportedly held a mock slave auction in one of its fifth grade classes, where Black students were cast as slaves and white students as buyers.
A state investigation found that the mock auction, which placed imaginary chains of Black students’ necks, wrists, and ankles and urged white classmates to bid on them, “had a profoundly negative effect” on the children.
On Wednesday (May 29), the New York State Attorney General’s Office announced its findings in a probe into the March incident at The Chapel School. The school has subsequently agreed to diversify its staff and student body, which is currently prekindergarten through eighth grade and 43 percent minority.
The school must also hire a chief diversity officer approved by state Attorney General Letitia James. “Every young person — regardless of race — deserves the chance to attend school free of harassment, bias and discrimination,” James said in a statement. “Lessons designed to separate children on the basis of race have no place in New York classrooms, or in classrooms throughout this country. I thank The Chapel School for agreeing to take measures that directly address the issues of race, diversity and inclusion at the school."
After the March incident, the mother of a student at the school in Westchester County said a white teacher allowed white students to bid on and “buy” black students pretending to be slaves.
According to James’ office, a teacher in two separate fifth-grade social studies classes asked all of the African American students to raise their hands and were then led out of the classroom to stand in the hallway. The teacher then placed imaginary “shackles” on the African American students and had them walk back into the classroom.
A simulated auction then followed with the Black students having to line up against a wall in front of the class. "The investigation found that the teacher’s re-enactments in the two classes had a profoundly negative effect on all of the students present — especially the African American students — and the school community at large," James said. "Following the re-enactments, the school terminated the teacher’s employment.
"The investigation found that families had previously made complaints relating to, among other things, unequal discipline of students on the basis of race, a lack of racial sensitivity and awareness in school curricula, and a lack of diversity among the teaching faculty," James concluded.
According to NBC News, The Chapel School says it “took immediate corrective action" after the March 5 incident. Principal Michael Schultz says the school accepts responsibility for the state's findings and is committed to cooperating with the new agreement laid out by the state.