Teacher under fire for insensitive assignment

A Long Island middle school teacher is under fire for allegedly asking her students to “write something funny” underneath images of slaves.  

Last Friday, Darlene McCurty took to Facebook to describe a racially insensitive class assignment that her granddaughter, an eighth grader at John W. Dodd Middle School in Freeport, N.Y., had come across. 

“My granddaughter who is in the eighth grade contacted me last night,” McCurty wrote. “She said her friend’s social studies teacher gave a class assignment to ‘write something funny’ about these pictures on slavery – and make it real funny because she didn’t want to be bored. My granddaughter’s friend refused to write anything ‘funny’.”

McCurty included two photos of the assignment, along with the responses — one of which read,  “GETTING THAT MONEY” while another read, “US BLACK PEOPLE NEED TO GET OUT.” Other captions included “Cotton = Bread” and “Black Girls WORK HARD PLAY HARD.” 

“My granddaughter was and still is very upset and she asked me how can this racist teacher be reprimanded,” McCurty continued in her post. “I told her that I would handle it. I’m asking everyone whether you have a child or children who attend John W. Dodd Middle School in Freeport, New York to contact the administration and request that Shelly Scully, eighth grade social studies teacher, who is white, be removed for her blatant insensitivity and racism towards teaching this lesson on slavery to our children.”

McCurty’s post was shared over 1,000 times and drew angry comments from fellow Facebook users, some of whom criticized the teacher for assigning the inappropriate classwork. 

“This is HORRIFIC!!!” one person wrote. “I blame the so-called ‘leader’ to give these cowards courage to split their lips to make these racist comments and think it’s OK!!”

In response to the uproar, Kishore Kuncham, the superintendent of Freeport Public Schools, issued a statement, claiming that officials had conducted an investigation. 

“Let me be perfectly clear: Our investigation has determined that this lesson was poorly conceived and executed,” he said. “The teacher instructed three separate classes of students to develop captions for photos of post-war sharecroppers. We understand from our investigation that she told students to ‘make it funny’ and ‘don’t bore me.’ Aside from the fact that this is a poor lesson, it is an insensitive trivialization of a deeply painful era for African Americans in this country, and it is unacceptable.”

The teacher in question also issued an apology in the incident’s aftermath. 

“It is with the deepest sense of respect that I apologize to the students, families and larger Freeport community for my insensitive words and actions last week,” the teacher said in a statement. “As a teacher and fellow member of this school community, it is my responsibility to exercise the highest degree of care and thought in all of my student and staff interactions. I failed to do so last week, and I fully accept that I must work hard to rebuild trust from my students, colleagues and the community.”