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A teacher in Norfolk, Va., divided her 4th grade class according to race and held a mock slave auction as part of a lesson on the Civil War.
In the lesson, non-white students in the classroom were set apart and then auctioned by the white students, school spokesperson Elizabeth Thiel Mather told the Virginian-Pilot.
The principal of Sewells Point Elementary School, where the lesson was taught, only became aware of the April 1 lesson after the children's parents complained.
In an April 6 letter sent to parents of students in the class, Principal Mary B. Wrushen wrote: "I recently became aware of a history lesson that was presented to the students in Ms. Jessica Boyle's fourth grade class. Although her actions were well intended to meet the instructional objectives, the activity presented was inappropriate for the students.
"The lesson could have been thought through more carefully, as to not offend her students or put them in an uncomfortable situation," Wrushen wrote.
The principal also told parents in the letter that guidance counselors were being made available to students who took part in the lesson.
The Washington Post reported that Jessica Boyle, the teacher who arranged the mock slave auction lesson, had been an instructor at the elementary school for 6 years.
The Post also reported that the school's 4th grade class is 40 percent black and 40 percent white.