Teacher Binds Students During Slavery Lesson

A lesson about slavery has a teacher in hot water. Haverstraw Middle School teacher Eileen Bernstein binded the feet and hands of two girls in her social studies class to show conditions on slave ships.

Bernstein in a white teacher and the two children were black. They were not the only blacks in the class. The girls were traumatized after the incident and their mothers are irate.

The Associated Press reported that one mother, Christine Shand wishes that the teacher be removed from the class. Those wishes were announced during a meeting on Thursday that a local represtative from the NAACP attended.

“I think the teacher should have gotten some discipline,” Shand said. “I know if that was me, I would be uncomfortable going back to that class. Why should my daughter have to switch?”

Superintendent Brian Monahan of the North Rockland School District has refused to announce any actions that are planned to be taken against the teacher. The teacher was still on Friday.

“We encourage our teachers to deliver the curriculum in a variety of ways, to go beyond just reading the textbook,” the superintendent said. “We don’t want to discourage creativity. But this obviously went wrong because the student was upset.”

The incident took place on November 18 during a class about the conditions that Africans underwent while aboard slave ships going to the United States. Bernstein bound the girls and had them crawl under a desk to simulate the experience.

That afternoon Gabrielle Shand broke down in tears upon arriving home.

“There are other ways to demonstrate slavery,” Christine Shand said Friday. “It doesn’t matter the color of the kids, it’s just not right to tie them up. My daughter is still upset, still embarrassed. She didn’t go to school today.”

Wilbur Aldridge, director of the local chapter of the NAACP, says that the lesson on slavery went wrong when the teacher used binding on a student regardless of the colour of the child’s skin colour. He is also concerned that while the teacher apologized to Gabrielle it wasn’t for the wrong she had placed on the child but rather that she had upset her.

Shand is not sure of where this will go but it is possible a lawsuit could happen.


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