School in mock slave complaint reaches agreement with NY
A private New York school where a teacher was fired after allegedly holding mock “slave auctions” will hire a diversity officer and change its discipline practices under an agreement with the attorney general announced Wednesday.
The Chapel School in the Westchester County village of Bronxville also will take steps to diversify its staff and student body under the agreement with Attorney General Letitia James.
Complaints from parents led to the firing of fifth-grade teacher Rebecca Antinozzi in March and an investigation by James’ office, which found that Antinozzi had black students line up against a wall wearing imaginary shackles and then simulated auctioning them off to their white classmates.
“The investigation found that the teacher’s reenactments in the two classes had a profoundly negative effect on all of the students present — especially the African-American students — and the school community at large,” James’ office said.
Investigators also learned that parents had complained before about a lack of racial sensitivity at the school and its unequal discipline of students based on race.
In a statement, school Principal Michael Schultz said the school had made mental health counseling available after the incident and arranged for anti-discrimination discussions and meetings with fifth-grade families.
“We accept responsibility for the overall findings,” Schultz said, “and we are committed to implementing all items outlined by the attorney general to help us deepen our cultural competence.”
Antinozzi could not be reached by phone Wednesday. In an interview with News 12 Westchester in March, she denied holding a mock slave auction and said she separated black and white students to drive home a history lesson about the way slaves were taken against their will, bid on and forced to work.
“I know my intention was to never hurt or offend or upset anyone,” she said.