'Slave' Homework Controversy Heats Up at GCPS Meeting
Board chairman apologizes; teacher dismissed by school system is identified.
The official fallout of the recent controversy at Beaver Ridge Elementary in Norcross has taken effect, and the controversy was very much alive at Thursday's board meeting of the Gwinnett school system in Suwanee.
Board Chairman Louise Radloff apologized for the incident after several speakers addressed the board, sometimes heatedly.
"What happened at Beaver Ridge was very unfortunate," Radloff said. "I apologize. It was not right. (The school system) is all about children."
According to media reports, the teacher who resigned is Luis Rivera, who had been with the school since 2008.
The controversy began when the third-grade teacher gave questions in a math homework assignment that referred to slavery. Frederick Douglass is a former slave.
The questions were:
- "Each tree has 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?"
- "If Frederick got two beatings each day, how many beatings did he get in one week?"
Several speakers Thursday criticized the GCPS board.
Penny Poole was particularly emotional, as Radloff repeatedly had to ask her to end her session when it went over the alloted time.
"It's an atrocity," Poole said. Referring to board members, Poole said, "We've got people making decisions that don't look like us."
Community activist Marilyn Tillman said, "We have become a laughingstock. ... With local control comes local responsibility."
Another speaker, Mark Williams, said the incident is "another reason why diversity training is needed in Gwinnett schools."
Poole went so far as to say that Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks "does not care about black people."
The superintendent responded to her by saying, "You have to look at actions."
After the meeting, Wilbanks said that Gwinnett "does as good a job as anybody" with diversity.
Wilkbanks added that the GCPS has ended its investigation on the matter. Other Beaver Ridge teachers involved have been admonished.