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Detroit teacher disciplined over slavery comments

Anthony Lanzilote

A Detroit teacher who was under fire for comments he made in class about slavery has been disciplined and forced to undergo training.

Officials with the Detroit Public Schools Community District said last month that the Renaissance High School teacher was under investigation after a parent reported the comments and posted them to social media. The parent described the comments as “racially demeaning.”

The teacher received an unpaid suspension, the vice president of the Detroit school board, Angelique Peterson-Mayberry, said during a meeting Tuesday night. The length of the suspension is unclear.

At issue were comments the teacher made after showing a video about Greece that referred to helots, a group of people in ancient Greece who were forced into servitude. The parent said the teacher then compared students in his class with helots and said they were slaves to teachers. The teacher also made a comment questioning whether a student could read, the parent said.

In addition to the suspension, the teacher was required to undergo training on race, gender, and privilege. He was also required to participate in a “restorative circle” with students in the class. A restorative circle is a method of resolving conflict that requires those involved to sit in a circle and have an open conversation about the conflict.

Peterson-Mayberry provided the update during a period of the meeting in which the board answers questions the public raised at a previous meeting. The parent who reported the comments had asked board members how the district would address his concerns.

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