Teacher investigated after interactive slavery lesson
TOMS RIVER, N.J.- A New Jersey teacher is under investigation after having students pretend to be slaves for a history lesson.
8th-grade social studies teacher Lawrence Cuneo had Toms River Intermediate School students to act as if they were picking cotton and lay on a dirty floor as 'slaves' on Friday, News 12 at Jersey reports.
A student accused Cueno of making the noise of a cracking whip over them and kicking at the students' feet in an Instagram post. The teacher, who also is the mayor of Pine Beach, has apologized if the lesson about a difficult subject unintentionally harmed his students.
The school district is investigating the lesson at this time, however, many came to the defense of Cueno. Students and parents told Patch news that descriptions of the activity are inaccurate and that the lesson was discussed beforehand and participation was voluntary.
Toms River school district spokesman Michael Kenny told New Jersey 101.5, "It seems initially clear that there was no ill intent but that better judgment should have been used with regard to the alleged instructional methods, particularly as it pertains to recognizing the sensitivities of all students."
Cuneo says the lesson was intended to show how "degrading and despicable the institution of slavery was in our history."
"Slavery existed within our country and the lessons learned, even if uncomfortable, need to be told. At no time was my intention to harm the sensitivities of any student. If this lesson did that, I apologize to those affected."
Michael Kenny says the district's investigation is "keeping in mind that our curriculum has evolved to include more hands-on, authentic activities."