NJ teacher cleared of wrongdoing after having students pretend to be slaves

1010 WINS Newsroom
February 14, 2020 - 1:02 pm
Toms River Intermediate East

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TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) -- Officials at a New Jersey school district have cleared a teacher of wrongdoing for having students pretend to be slaves as part of a history lesson.

According to social media posts by a student, 8th-grade social studies teacher Lawrence Cuneo had Toms River Intermediate School students act as if they were picking cotton.

The student also said in the posts that Cuneo made the noise of a cracking whip over them and kicked at students’ feet, according to the Asbury Park Press.

The Asbury Park Press received screenshots of the Instagram posts by the student’s mother. She did not return requests seeking comment from the newspaper.

A spokesman for Toms River Regional School District previously said the district was investigating what happened.

Cuneo, who is also in his third term as mayor of the small town of Pine Beach, emailed a statement Wednesday to a radio station and the Asbury Park Press. In the statement, he said he was demonstrating a “degrading and despicable” institution in American history when he told students to pretend to be slaves.

Cuneo apologized but said the lessons learned from slavery must be shared and taught.

“At no time was my intention to harm the sensitivities of any student,” Cueno said in the emailed statement, “If this lesson did that, I apologize to those affected.”

District spokesman Michael Kenny said that as the investigation moves forward, “We are keeping in mind that our curriculum has evolved to include more hands-on, authentic activities.” He added that it seems initially clear that Cuneo had no ill intent, but should have used better judgment.

Teachers’ methods for teaching about slavery have come into question several times in recent years.