A fifth-grade teacher from Margaret A. Neary Elementary School in Southborough, Massachusetts, near Boston, has been placed on paid leave after holding a mock slave auction and using a racial slur during instruction. Superintendent Gregory L. Martineau apologized and took responsibility, explaining the incidents to parents.

In January, the teacher conducted a mock slave auction as part of a history lesson on the Southern colonies, singling out two children of color to discuss attributes like teeth and strength. Martineau condemned these methods as unacceptable and traumatizing. In April, the same teacher read from a book not in the curriculum and used the N-word, which does not appear in the book.

The incidents were reported on April 24, leading to a meeting with the teacher and principal to address the issues. The next day, the teacher reportedly called out a student who had complained, which Martineau deemed “not acceptable.”

The teacher is now undergoing “due process procedures” to determine their status. The principal was also placed on 10 days of paid leave in May. Concerned parent Sarah Alinovi and Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts president Rahsaan Hall emphasized the need for proactive measures and community engagement on these issues.

Martineau apologized for the events and acknowledged the district’s initial missteps. He announced plans to develop and implement a “cultural competency” program by fall to ensure safe and supportive learning environments.