A copy of two questions from a homework assignment at Beaver Ridge Elementary School. Principal Jose DeJesus said a worksheet created by one of the school's teachers was sent home with four classes earlier this month.
SUWANEE -- A teacher who resigned after coming under fire for giving students a math problem about slavery has been identified.
Luis Rivera, a teacher at Beaver Ridge Elementary since 2008, was the one responsible for penning the original questions.
It all started with a parent's concern over a question on her son's homework.
Nicole Thompson and husband Christopher Braxton were helping Christopher Jr., 8, with a worksheet, when they came across a question that stopped them.
Thompson wasn't sure what to do about it at first, but she was pretty sure it was going to mean a call to her school's principal. Thompson said she was "shocked" by what she read.
The issue has since snowballed, gaining national publicity as well as the resignation of a Beaver Ridge Elementary teacher who wrote word problems earlier this month he claims were never meant to offend anyone.
The matter reached a near-frenzy point at Thursday night's Gwinnett County Board of Education meeting when a large group of people arrived to speak their piece on the homework.
One of the homework questions: "Each tree has 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?"
Another question was: "If Frederick got two beatings each day, how many beatings did he get in one week?"
Rivera, who made $39,170 a year, resigned Jan. 13. The Gwinnett Daily Post obtained his name and those of three others being investigated through an open records request.
In a statement written to the administration, Rivera said the homework was an attempt to combine subject areas. The third-grade class at the time was studying famous Americans and had been reading about Frederick Douglass, a former slave.
In his letter to the administration, Rivera apologized for his actions. He has been a teacher at the school since 2008.
"As a minority myself, I understand the trials and tribulations associated with being a minority," Rivera wrote.
"I cannot undo what has been done," he wrote. "I apologize for any negative feelings I have brought to my family, my colleagues, my school and my district...I wrote poorly written questions in an attempt to enhance student achievement...I have brought shame to my family, and my school. For that I cannot apologize enough."
In a disciplinary note prior to Rivera's resignation, Principal Jose DeJesus cited Rivera for "writing the items and distributing the homework to students."
Three other teachers at the school were chided for distributing the worksheets. They are Christina Bartolo, who is the grade-level chair, Deserae Moore and Maricary Garcia-Carrero.
Those who spoke at Thursday's board meeting were unhappy about the matter.
"This is not a black and white issue. It's an issue of good and evil," said Henry White. "We demand that school policy is implemented to help prevent such acts in the future."
Penny Poole chimed in that the incident was "an act of betrayal to the community ... we demand the firing of the three additional teachers still on staff."
Ed Dubose, Georgia NAACP president, called the homework assignment an act of "racial bigotry within the Gwinnett County Public School System, and it's sad because Gwinnett County has good teachers."
Dubose called this week's resignation a "step in the right direction. We are pleased that the teacher resigned, although we called for the firing of all four that have been involved, and we've pushed for anybody who distributed it to be fired."
Dubose said he met Jan. 10 with Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks to address the concerns.
Dubose said he told Wilbanks the system should consider issuing an apology to all parents and "explain how they plan to avoid these types of problems."
In addition, Dubose proposed that all students who received the homework assignment "meet with counselors and be offered counseling if they need it."
All teachers, he added, "should have sensitivity and diversity training."
School Board Chairman Louise Radloff apologized on behalf of the system:
"It is very unfortunate, and I do apologize for it happening. It simply was not right. This system is about teaching and learning. It is for all children."