VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- "Blacks." That was the one-word heading on a poster created in an English class at Kempsville High School. Underneath the heading was a list of disparaging words and stereotypes used to describe members of the black community, a list generated by students.
A statement from Virginia Beach City Public Schools said the purpose of the assignment at Kempsville High School was to have students "reflect on the harm that can be caused by stereotypes and unintended biases," but the school division acknowledged the exercise, in fact, perpetuated those stereotypes.
A student who was in the English class shared a picture of the poster on Facebook. Besides slurs, it featured comments such as:
- "All black people eat fried chicken"
- "Can't swim"
- "Single parents"
- "Black people don't succeed"
The student who shared the picture said as part of her Facebook post: "...this racist stuff at my school needs to stop."
Virginia Beach City Public Schools promised in its statement that it was taking steps to make sure something similar to this situation doesn't happen again:
We will not try to justify or defend the language or phrases seen on a poster created in one of our classrooms. The activity that led to this should not have happened. It is completely unacceptable that children were put in the position to generate a list of disparaging remarks used to characterize others.
13News Now spoke with two Kempsville alumni who graduated in 2017.
“When you first showed me this, I was very surprised and disgusted,” said Yasmeen Galvez. “I would have never have expected Kempsville to show something like this, or assign something like this when they know there are people who would be targeted by this kind of language.”
Kempsville High School graduate, Brady Soares, said it’s embarrassing to know this type of language is thrown around so loosely at his old school.
“I don’t think the teacher had any bad intentions by doing it. I just think he or she just thought, 'what can we do to change these types of stereotypes.' But then I think students thought it was funny or something to say words like this,” said Soares.
Galvez said she can’t believe the teacher would allow it to hang on the wall.
“If I just walked into a classroom and saw hate speech like that sitting on a board I would just feel super uncomfortable... I wouldn’t know what to say because I know other students would probably like point, and they would laugh,” said Galvez.
Galvez said the assignment totally backfired, encouraging hate rather than deterring it.
“If I was given this assignment then I would have immediately complained to Mr. Harris, the principal because this sort of assignment cannot be tolerated,” said Galvez.
She also said an apology from the school district is not good enough.
“I think there should be some sort of racial training for the teachers, a new batch of that if they don’t already have it, because someone should have known that would not have ended the right way,” said Galvez.
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