AUSTIN, Texas - Parents of a seventh grader at Four Points Middle School are appalled by a class assignment. In the 16-page homework packet, one page asked the student to draw themselves as a slave.
When Tonya Jennings saw the assignment, she couldn't believe her eyes.
"Immediately, I felt disgusted by the question," said Jennings. "Just to have her even think to do something like this is a problem."
Her 12-year-old daughter brought home this seemingly typical homework packet Thursday.
"As always we were going through it because it is a lot of work, and it's going to take time for her to do it," added Jennings.
The homework seemed fine at first, but both parents were stunned when they saw the last page titled "Making Sense with Senses." In it students are directed to draw themselves as slaves.
"Then it says to color the picture. I thought about how she is only one of two African Americans in the class," Jennings said.
The students are then instructed to write five sentences describing their surroundings. They must use their senses, and will be graded on neatness and creativity.
"Really? What's creative about this?' Looking at this, it screams, 'We don't understand how this is a problem and we don't understand how slavery was a horrific time and not something to be taken lightly," said Jennings.
No one from Leander ISD would speak to us on camera, but the district confirms they did receive a complaint Friday morning from the Jennings family.
Corey Ryan, chief communications officer with LISD, sent a statement that reads:
"A parent contacted Four Points Middle School earlier today with a concern about a Texas History lesson regarding the Civil War and the role of slavery. The campus quickly responded to the parent to hear his concerns and discuss the situation. When teaching sensitive content, we strive to deliver lessons with care and context to our students.
The tragic impacts of slavery are well documented and relevant to our state and nation’s history. The state curriculum for seventh-grade history expects students to explain reasons for Texas’ involvement in the Civil War, including states' rights, slavery, sectionalism and tariffs. The state also asks students to be able to identify points of view from the historical context surrounding an event and the frame of reference that influenced the participants.
For more information about the seventh-grade social studies curriculum, please refer to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website, section “113.19. Social Studies, Grade 7, Beginning with School Year 2011-2012”, sub-sections five and 21."
To Jennings, the assignment makes light of a dark time in U.S. history, but she plans to use this as a teaching tool for the school and her daughter.
"We may change it, update then I'll hand it to the principal," she said.