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Controversy over homework assignment asking students to list positive reasons for slavery

WAUWATOSA (CBS 58) -- A fourth grader's homework assignment is causing controversy. The children's homework assignment asked them to list positive reasons for slavery.

Some parents say it is offensive to their young, impressionable children.

The homework assignment was given to a class of 9-year-olds at Our Redeemer Lutheran School in Wauwatosa, on Monday. It asked fourth-graders to list "three bad reasons" for slavery and "three 'good' reasons."

"For the three good reasons he wrote, 'I feel there is no good reason for slavery that is why I did not write,'" said Trameka Brown-Berry.

Trameka Brown-Berry's son is a student in the class that received the homework assignment.

"I thought that it was highly offensive, very insensitive and degrading to my 9-year-old African American son," Brown-Berry said.

She reached out to the school administrators, expressing her concern.

"The simple fact that they were talking about slavery, I applauded them for that, it was the fact that she tried to have my son list three good reasons for slavery, there is no good reason for slavery," Brown-Berry said.

School Administrator Jim Van Dellen declined an on-camera interview but provided the following statement,

"On behalf of Our Redeemer Lutheran School, we sincerely apologize for the fact that an assignment given to a 4th grade class yesterday was not clearly explained to students and their parents. The result was a strong call to action to address the situation. We understand that, as presented, the words used showed a lack of sensitivity and were offensive. The purpose of the assignment was not, in any way, to have students argue that ANY slavery is acceptable-a concept that goes against our core values and beliefs about the equality and worth of people of all races. We are committed to instilling those values in our students and are very sorry that the assignment as presented was contrary to our values and teachings.

We appreciate the parents who brought this issue to our attention and are working with them. Moving forward, Our Redeemer will redouble our efforts to anticipate and communicate with parents prior to sensitive subjects being discussed in class. This particular assignment is no longer a part of our curriculum and we are committed working with our families and our teachers regarding this sensitive issue."

"I know what they meant like what did the people at the time think was good about it or bad about it but they didn't say that," said Jessica Smith.

Smith's daughter is also in the class.

"And my daughter being mixed, I don't want her to think that any of slavery was a good reason," Smith said.

"I feel like it's a bad assignment," said Nora, a student at the school.

Both parents CBS 58 News spoke with say they've never had an issue like this one at their school. They said they're happy with the way administrators responded to their concerns, including their request for cultural competency training for teachers. 

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