CALDWELL, N.J. (CBS) ―
Two local middle school teachers are in hot water after assigning students a controversial project on slavery that's angered parents.
Over 100 sixth graders at Grover Cleveland Middle School in Caldwell spent several days last week taking part in an assignment where they used terms like "build a plantation" while completing their "Lap of Luxury" social studies project.
The project instructed students to create an advertisement defending the use of slave labor to run a newly built plantation in South Carolina. Students are told to come up with a '"catchy" name for the plantation and give three reasons why slave labor is the "best idea" and to add illustrations.
One student, who is not being identified because of his age, read to CBS 2 what he wrote for the assignment: "Slave labor is the way to go because slaves aren't paid, so all money is profit."
Parents are astonished by the assignment's nature.
"It's really offending," said Tyiesha Hameed, whose child is one of the only eight black students who attends the school. "There's so many other ways and tools to show our kids how to learn and teach them in reference to slavery."
One question parents and officials are asking is whether the 11- and 12-year-olds even understand the lesson which was given to them.
"The students have to use their creative spirits to create justification. That gets the mind pretty worked up, and it embeds some things in their process that will be there for forever," said James Harris, president of the New Jersey NAACP chapter.
Casey Shorter, the school's principal, said he didn't find out about the project until after he spoke with a concerned parent. "Our intent was not to be insensitive. After reviewing the assignment and listening to feedback, from an administrative and teaching perspective, we determined it was insensitive and inappropriate. And we will eliminate it from the curriculum," he said.
Citing privacy issues, Shorter would not say what he's done with Dana Howarth and Beth Rutzler, the two language arts teachers who created the controversial "Lap of Luxury" project. He adds this is actually the second year that the teachers have given the assignment.