A teacher at the private Detroit-area Roeper School has been suspended after she handed a worksheet out to students that compared Barack Obama to monkeys.
The Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, school passed an “anti-racism resolution” last year. The offending handout was given to around 30 students and directed them to identify primates from an array of pictures labeled “apes,” “monkeys,” and “lemurs.” One of the pictures included was of former President Obama.
When news of the worksheet surfaced, the school canceled last Thursday’s classes because of threats. The school issued a statement saying it acknowledged the “disturbing racial offense contained in an assignment.” It also offered counseling to students because of the incident.
The school’s statement also offered an apology for the “piece of curriculum” and the “harm it has caused.” The school said the material was completely inconsistent with its philosophy and its mission.
The statement also noted that the teacher involved took responsibility and admitted her mistake by not “properly vetting the resource.” The school said that it knows that is “not enough” and as a result the teacher has been placed on indefinite administrative leave.
Roeper School director of diversity Carolyn Lett told local reporters that she “felt disgusted” by the worksheet and she couldn’t believe it surfaced at the exclusive school that costs $30,000 per year to attend.
Lett said she had trouble “making sense” of the handout when she first saw it. She added that the offending teacher felt “horrified” when she saw Obama’s picture included among the animals. The teacher said she did not notice the image before handing the sheet out to students.
Chair of the school Board of Trustees Clay Thomas said the worksheet is the “antithesis of who we are as a school.”
Last May, the board of trustees for the school adopted an “anti-racism” resolution that stated social justice issues facing the country, “including the killings of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC),” have had a “profound impact” on all members of the school’s past and present community.
The school also passed a resolution that condemns “all forms of bullying, microaggressions, hate speech, and violence.”