An Alabama teacher was suspended after her sixth-grade students re-enacted along racial lines the police shooting of Michael Brown, the black teenager whose killing in Ferguson, Missouri, has sparked nightly clashes, school officials said Friday.
The skit was the students’ idea, but the teacher erred when she did not stop them from acting it out, said Audrey Strong, principal of Brantley Elementary School in Selma, Alabama, where the re-enactment occurred on Monday.
“The teacher made the poor judgment of allowing that skit to continue once she saw the props and the context,” Strong said.
The incident happened after the teacher assigned her students to select a current event to re-enact as an extension of a social studies lesson, Strong said.
The students, most of them black, chose to act out the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, as well as the 2012 slaying of Trayvon Martin, a black teen shot dead in a confrontation with neighborhood watch patrolman George Zimmerman in Florida.
The students used a fake weapon and played their roles along racial lines, with whites acting as the shooters and blacks as the victims, Strong said.
Strong declined to provide the teacher’s name, race or the length of her suspension without pay, which was ordered by the school district on Thursday. But she said she has not been fired.
The principal described the teacher as dedicated but inexperienced.
The incident came to light after a parent of a student in the class took to social media on Tuesday to voice her anger.
“They are teaching these children to hate one another when we’re supposed to be teaching them to love one another,” Jessica Lynn Baughn said on Facebook.
Phone messages left with a Selma resident of that name were not immediately returned.
The incident highlights the balance teachers must strike in encouraging students to think and act creatively while keeping them within the bounds of what is acceptable, Strong said.
“As educators, we still have to monitor that learning and redirect it if need be,” she said.