Assignment asks middle schoolers 'How many slaves would equal 4 white people?'

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — A local middle school social studies assignment is raising serious concerns.

Students at Kannapolis Middle School were asked how many slaves would be needed to equal at least four white people.

The question was asked as part of a lesson on the Three-Fifths Compromise, which is a 1700's law to count slaves as less than white people.

But, parents are wondering why a teacher would think the assignment was acceptable.

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One mother told Channel 9 that she has talked to the superintendent, the principal and other school leaders about the assignment.

“It angers me that our children are being subject to such insensitive and disgusting assignments in this day and age,” she said.

Parent Dorel Simmons said he's worked for the school district and the assignment doesn't reflect the teachers and staff. He said he wonders why a teacher would ask the questions.

"There definitely needs to be some sensitivity training," he said.

Channel 9 took the parents' concerns to Kannapolis City School District officials, who said the questions on the assignment were not approved by school leaders.

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"That was not an appropriate assignment, so we immediately reached out to the parent personally -- the superintendent, the principal and others at the school -- to apologize," Ellen Boyd with Kannapolis City Schools said.

When Channel 9's Damany Lewis asked Boyd if the teacher has been disciplined, she said, "Yes, we have addressed it with the teacher and taken disciplinary action."

She would not say what disciplinary action was taken because it is a "personnel matter."

The district said this was the first time the assignment was handed out to students and it will be the last.

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According to school leaders, teachers and staff are in the process of performing racial equity training. They said the training started before the assignment, but the assignment shows more needs to be learned.

"We hope this is an eye-opening experience, not for people directly involved, but for everyone in the school district," Boyd said.

The school district said the grades for the assignment won't count for any of the students.