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Pittsford School District apologizes for 'highly insensitive' lesson on slavery

provided by PCSD
A worksheet used in a fourth-grade classroom in the Pittsford Central School District teaches that African Americans who were enslaved agreed to work for colonists.

The Pittsford Central School District superintendent issued an apology on Tuesday over a classroom worksheet about slavery. 

In January, a fourth-grade classroom lesson on “Colonial times” included a worksheet that stated African Americans -- not Africans -- voluntarily agreed to take the trip across the Atlantic Ocean in exchange for several years of work, but were then kept in enslavement.

Other prompts in the fill-in-the-blank worksheet included what "jobs" slaves had.

A parent raised concern with the district over the worksheet. 

In a statement Tuesday, Superintendent Michael Pero said the incident was brought to his attention that morning. He said the worksheet’s tone was “highly insensitive” and inaccurate. The lesson will be retaught with factual information, he said.

“I would like to thank the parent who brought this to our attention,” Pero said. “This situation reinforces the significance and importance of working with our staff with regard to high-quality resources, ongoing professional development and culturally responsive-sustaining educational practices.”

The district says the worksheet, which was used by a first-year teacher in one classroom, comes from an online resource called “Classroom Nook,” which is not district-approved. 

In 2019, the district made headlines after a parent raised similar concerns over a botched Black History Month project in which white men, including former U.S. President Andrew Johnson, were pictured instead of the Black inventors they were supposed to be celebrating. 

Noelle E. C. Evans is an education reporter/producer with a background in documentary filmmaking and education.