In a story that continues to gain traction, Gwinnett County educator, Luis Rivera, apologized to school officials for implementing dehumanizing slave questions into math equations for third-graders.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained a statement from Rivera, who resigned Wednesday after teaching at Beaver Ridge Elementary since 2008, in which the educator apologized profusely for his “poor taste”:
“I did not write those questions with the intent of being malicious or offensive,” said Rivera. “I wrote poorly written questions in an attempt to enhance student achievement. I have brought shame to my family, and my school. For that, I cannot apologize enough.”
Rivera was instructed to create a homework assignment that correlated with the slavery lessons that the students were being taught in Social Studies. The cross-curriculum method was intended to reinforce their understanding of the subject matter. One of his most specific instructions — and the question that has caused him the most trouble — was to examine a day in the life of author, historian, orator and former slave, Frederick Douglass. The question he came up with was highly offensive to many African-American parents:
“If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?”
Rivera, who told officials that he “immediately felt remorse and embarrassment” when he realized that parents were offended, claims that teachers were told to explain to their students the difficult obstacles that Douglass had to overcome to become a successful, respected leader. He also believes that his ethnicity should prove that he meant no harm:
“As a minority myself, I understand the trials and tribulations associated with being a minority,” he wrote. “There was no intent to harm, or to offend. Rather, I was trying to make connections for the students, while completing my assignment of cross-curricular integration.”
According to the Gwinnett County school district’s investigation, Christina Bartolo, grade level chair at Beaver Ridge, did not review the culturally insensitive questions. They were not only assigned in her classroom, but also those of third-grade teachers, Deserae Moore and Maricary-Carrero. Five other third-grade teachers — with arguably more common sense — opted out of using the offensive assignment.