A Michigan middle school teacher was suspended two weeks before his intended retirement after showing his class a video of white people in blackface during a lesson on Jim Crow racial segregation laws.
According to the Monroe News, Monroe Middle School teacher Alan Barron, who has been an educator for 36 years, was put on administrative leave last month after an assistant principal sat in on a history class where Barron discussed segregation laws.
The instruction reportedly included a video about how white people used blackface to intimidate African-Americans during entertainment in the 1800s.
Parents whose children are in Barron’s eighth-grade class told the paper that the administrator thought the lesson plan was offensive and racist.
One parent, Adrienne Aaron, whose husband is African-American, said Barron was simply showing her child and others in class what actually happened in history. Aaron said her daughter was not offended.
“She was more offended that they stopped the video,” Aaron said, according to the Monroe News. “It had nothing to do with racism. History is history. We need to educate our kids to see how far we’ve come in America. How is that racism?”
The school district, for its part, would not confirm that Barron is suspended, and would only state that he is “on leave.”
“Mr. Barron has been on leave for about a week while we look into a reported situation in his classroom,” a statement read, the paper reported. “Because this is a personnel matter that is going through the teacher-contract required steps, we cannot comment any further.”
Parents and students have been expressing their support for Barron, who is retiring at the end of this school year after 36 years in the classroom.
“Mr. Barron is one of the ... great teachers we have in Monroe Public Schools,” one parent wrote in a letter that was distributed through Facebook. “He has changed many children’s lives over the course of his career. If Mr. Barron felt that he was teaching something that was offensive, he would most definitely not have done it.”
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