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Locals, leaders weigh in on slavery homework

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.

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."

Comments

NewsReader 2 years, 9 months ago

If you beat 20 dead horses in an hour, how many dead horses can you beat in a week?

Seriously GDP? This story is getting old and you are doing everything in your power to keep it alive and perpetuate this nonsense. As for Dubose, I simply can't believe Wilbanks gave this clown the time of day, let alone met with him. I would have told him to go pound sand.

Why don't you tell all of your readers how disclosing this teacher's identity was in the best interest of anyone? It amazes me how you can manage to get the names of the people behind a stupid math question, yet can't seem to find the identities of the people who were personally responsible, (i.e. who authored and who approved it) for this HOT lane mess out on I-85. Why don't you do something constructive and use your open records request to find out and disclose who these people are instead of continuing to perpetuate this crap?

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HonestIngine 2 years, 9 months ago

Ed Dubose, is a joke and is trying to make a name for himself so he can run for public office. Why doesn't the NAACP jump on the Atlanta School System for their Cheating Scandal? Your talking about Black Administrators, Black Superintendent of the Entire System...CHEATING on National Tests... Now that's a bigger issue than this math test. Dubose, quit trying to make a mountain out of a Mole hill. Your using this to mount your career...

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MissDaisyCook 2 years, 9 months ago

Not a joke; a small time street punk trying to turn a minor issue into something he can gain attention for himself. The other whinning simpletons are trying to grab their share as well. Hopefully the resigning teacher will settle in a better community without this gaggle of fools to deal with.

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news2me 2 years, 9 months ago

Let's not forget the mess in Dekalb as well. Wonder where all the unhappy parents with APS and Dekalb are now sending their kids? Probably to GCPS even though they don't live here.

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news2me 2 years, 9 months ago

I feel very sorry for the students and wonder how the parents are explaining their actions and the fallout to their children. Everyone needs to move on at this point, including the media.

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Mack711 2 years, 9 months ago

Dubose and the naacp has no bueiness calling for the firing of anyone in the school system.The teacher should have never resigned for fired, only brought in to discuss this issue with the administration of the school. Dubose is here for only one reason, to stir up and upset the community and force his ideas and the ideas of his organization on the community, Where was he during the Atlanta cheating scandal? Why did he and his organization not protest loudly at this scandal? Probably because most involved were black? Our students should be taught all aspects of history so as to learn not to make the same mistakes in the future. The questions may have been inapproiate but does not deserve the firing of any teacher that attempts to teach. You will probably never hear from Dubose again to assist in problem solving. Most countries around the world are ahead of us in math and science education. This may be one of the reasons why we are so fat behind. Special interset have taken over every aspect of our lives.

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Veryconcernedcitizen 2 years, 9 months ago

AND the witch hunt continues with the help of the Media! I'm just waiting for the mass hysteria phase of this to kick in. Or has it already? It sounds to me like at least 3 out of 4 of the teachers is a "minority" including the question writer. Sorry NAACP, there is no big whie boogie man in the closet on this one. Just a few teachers who lack common sense. If an honest poll was taken I would bet 95%+ of Gwinnett residents could care less about this story now. I just don't see how putting names in papers and continuing this story is helping anything other than this dudes agenda from the NAACP. By the way most respectable black folks don't want anything to do with the NAACP for this reason right here. Just like most respectable white folks don't want any part of the KKK. Is this situation reverse discrimination? But it's minority teachers that did it? I'm sure someone can come up with a new catch phrase for situations when minorities discriminate against themselves?

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Mack711 2 years, 9 months ago

Please take the time to download the documents at the top of this page and read what Luis Rierva wrote in regard to this incident. His explanation should have been enough to satisfy the BOE. We have also heard from another source that these school officials should go through 'diversity training'. This is another term that says you must comply with our line of thinking or you are wrong in your thinking. You can not change the minds of anyone should you use this method. Long before this reached the media actions were being taken to resolve this incident. It is regretable that it happened, but since it did we must learn from this inciden,t not from any other source. To have it pointed out and say that it was wrong but not try to make a mountain out of a mole hill as has been done here. This teacher shows courage in the fact that he admits to his errors. This is one reason why so many qualified teachers are leaving the profession. They are probited from teaching what needs to be taught.

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hpytravlr 2 years, 9 months ago

How are teachers suppose to teach slavery without mentioning beatings and inhuman treatment?

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R 2 years, 9 months ago

Teachers use context in subject matter - this is an example of NO context.

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