Years of history lessons have taught us something rather vital: America as we know it today was created on the backs of slaves whose descendants are still feeling the effects of discrimination across multiple facets of private and public life, so it’s probably something you shouldn’t joke about.
And you probably shouldn’t hold a mock slave auction––wait, what?––either. But that’s exactly what one teacher did recently and it looks like she’s about to pay the price.
Rebecca Antinozzi, a fifth-grade teacher at Chapel School in Bronxville, New York, is now under investigation after holding a mock slave auction in which white students bid on black students. According to Chapel School Principal Michael Schultz, a third party will conduct an “independent review.”
Additionally, faculty and staff will receive sensitivity training and students will receive help from licensed medical professionals.
“The reported racial insensitivity is unacceptable and we do not condone any action that demeans anyone,” Schultz said.
The office of Attorney General Letitia James has launched its own investigation.
“My office is monitoring this matter closely,” James said in a statement.
Vernex Harding, the mother of a boy who was asked to pretend to be a slave as part of the history lesson, told local news station PIX 11 that her son has been “traumatized” since the incident, during which three black students were asked “to put imaginary chains along our necks and our wrists, and shackles on our ankles.”
“I’m getting teary-eyed about it because it’s like, how could somebody do this to my son,” she said.
Tuition at Chapel School is $14,000 a year. For that price, your child can take part in a history lesson where he gets to live out America’s original sin.
$14K annual tuition gets you a mock slave auction
So there’s probably enough left over for the “sensitivity training” now ordered: https://t.co/aB6PGKlTMs
— John Boel (@JohnBoelWAVE3) March 12, 2019
People are livid; some likened the lesson to gathering students to play Jews gassed in concentration camps.
WTF? Was he going to teach gathering Jews for the gas chamber next to teach that history! Omg he should be barred from teaching!!! I get visual learning to emphasize the points, this isn’t one of them!
— FlaGirl (@Lysa54932087) March 12, 2019
UNBELIEVABLE! How is it that a person with this level of ignorance and just plain stupidity was teaching children? Sorry, but there is no way that this incident came out of the blue. This "teacher" had to have had some type of questionable teaching practices prior to this. SMH😡
— Larissa Dana Emery Johnson (@larissa_emery) March 13, 2019
When are people just going to learn? It’s just a different time now. It’s alright to talk about history, but you don’t have to reenact the sensitive topics!🤦♂️
— Phil (@PhilRasinboys) March 12, 2019
I am so glad that I did not have children. Parents have to worry about so much today. God bless every active/participating Mom and Dad out there. You are appreciated (in my Tupac voice).
— Tisha Cee (@TishaCee1) March 12, 2019
A school that charges up to $14,000 a year has teachers like that? Not all teachers are the saints some people think they are.
— Bridget O’Donovan (@BridgetD17) March 12, 2019
Antinozzi is being represented by Cuddy and Feder, a White Plains-based law firm.
In a statement, Antinozzi’s lawyers disputed claims that she held a mock slave auction:
“The portrayal of the history lesson that has been reported is inaccurate, out of context, contains false facts and ignores the overwhelming support of Ms. Antinozzi from dozens of parents at the school, including letters of support from African-American parents with children who have been taught by her, a loving, devoted and uniformly respected teacher for more than 15 years, the last five of which have been at the Chapel School.
Ms. Antinozzi loves her students and is beloved by them. To the extent anyone took offense to a small portion of the overall lesson that day that was used solely to emphasize the tragic injustice of slavery, it certainly was never intended. She looks forward to continuing teaching with the same dedication, sensitivity, and passion that she has always shown.”
It’s 2019, people, not 1919. There has to be some other way of relaying the horrors of slavery without dehumanizing your students, right?
We’ll see how this story develops, but for now, Antonizzi will be known as Becky with the Bad History Lesson.