WATERTOWN — The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People plans to call for the dismissal of a Watertown teacher accused of making black students act as slaves for a classroom lesson last week.
Linda Brown-Robinson, president of the Syracuse and Onondaga County chapter, said she will be requesting a meeting with Superintendent Patricia B. LaBarr to discuss the personnel matter.
Nicole Dayes, said her son, who is black, and another black classmate at North Elementary School, were instructed to stand on a table while white students bid on them in a mock slave auction May 28. Once “bought,” Mrs. Dayes said her son was told to refer to the students portraying buyers as “master” for the remainder of the lesson. The school district released a statement on May 30, saying the teacher involved, whom the district still hasn’t identified, but has been publicly identified as Patricia Bailey, has been placed on administrative leave, pending a full investigation.
“I don’t know how anyone could not want this teacher dismissed,” Mrs. Brown-Robinson said. “It wasn’t a slip of the tongue, it was a well-thought-out lesson plan. I don’t know how anyone could defend this behavior...it defies intelligence.”
In addition to the firing of the teacher, Mrs. Brown-Robinson said the NAACP will also request the district implement sensitivity training for the “superintendent down to the lowest person on the totem pole.”
She also stressed this isn’t only about the black students involved; all students who had to participate were affected.
“I feel so bad for the students who were involved for both sides of the color spectrum,” Mrs. Brown-Robinson said. “You put white students in this position, how dare you do that, and you put them up against their classmates.”
At this point, Mrs. Brown-Robinson said she’s shocked the district isn’t the one calling her for a meeting.
“I am just surprised that given the fact the media is all over this, why the school district, if they are being sincere, hasn’t reached out to the NAACP in Syracuse,” Mrs. Brown-Robinson said.
The district’s discrimination, diversity or sensitivity procedures could not be found on its website, and Mrs. LaBarr didn’t respond Thursday when asked to provide this information.
However, in a statement released by the district’s Board of Education on Wednesday, the board defended the district’s discrimination policies.
“The Board of Education wants to assure the public that it has in place very strong and effective policies that prohibit discrimination in the workplace and in the schoolhouse. District staff and students are trained in those policies,” the release stated.
Matt Hamilton, press secretary for New York State United Teachers, stated in an email they “do not have any comment at this time” when asked about NAACP’s stance on the issue.