An Open Letter to Patrick Marsh Middle School and the Sun Prairie School Board

For Immediate Release

An Open Letter to Patrick Marsh Middle School Administration and the Sun Prairie School Board:

We are 100 Strong, a group of anti-racist activists in Dane County. We denounce the racism that teachers carried out at Patrick Marsh Middle School in Sun Prairie. A group of teachers planned an assignment about ancient Mesopotamia and Hammurabi’s Code, which included a question that asked the 6th grade students how they would punish a slave. The community responded in outrage. How could the teachers not see the violence in this assignment? How could they not see how this would traumatize Black children and descendants of people who survived racial terror and enslavement? 

In reaction to the outcry, the teachers who devised the lesson have been placed on temporary leave. The lesson was removed both from Patrick Marsh and from Teachers Pay Teachers, an online educational resource where the lesson originated from. The principal of Patrick Marsh called this a ‘grave error in judgment.’ It is easy enough to see and imagine how the school administration will do the quickest and safest actions to make this go away. Yet, we will not accept a statement that says the issue is resolved even before a process of accountability has been started.

This is beyond an error in judgment. We demand deeper accountability. Do the educators, the school administration, the school board, and the teachers union understand the damage? Do they understand what needs to be repaired? This moment calls for an extensive examination of the conditions that allowed for this lesson to be shared with students. How safe is it for Black students in this school when multiple teachers came together to develop and teach the lesson? Do you realize how this trauma can take years to heal? 

We demand that there is a space for the Black community in Sun Prairie to be heard, and that their vision and voice and leadership guides the path forward. We demand that there is proper investment and serious attention towards a restorative approach to repairing the harm. It’s time for Black community to play a role in reviewing the content of the curriculum to make sure they are teaching history that empowers survivors of racial terror and enslavement. Black youth need to know the histories of resistance and their relationship to current movements for racial justice. How can we be sure this is happening? 

100 Strong is in full support of the organizing of Black Umbrella and the Black community in Sun Prairie. We are here for you to offer support in your organizing efforts and to also continue putting pressure on Patrick Marsh and the Sun Prairie School District to take accountability. Additionally, we are offering abolitionist restorative justice circles for those harmed and those who caused the harm.

We invite other anti-racist community members and organizations to join in these efforts. Contact us at [email protected] to add your name and join us in demanding accountability.

We will do what it takes to stop further harm from happening to Black students in Sun Prairie.

100 Strong

Transformative Action Network

Dane County TimeBank

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