A fifth-grade teacher at Margaret Neary Elementary School in Massachusetts is on paid administrative leave months after the educator used children of color to reenact a slave trade and used the N-word during class.

The Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough system is actively investigating the incidents, according to a letter sent to parents from Superintendent Gregory L. Martineau. The district leader said he learned about the offenses in late April. The letter was sent out a month later, on May 29.

It was disclosed that the first incident occurred in January as part of a history lesson about the economy of the Southern colonies. “An educator was teaching about the triangle trade, and slave auctions were discussed. During the lesson, the educator held an impromptu mock slave auction. The educator asked two children sitting in front of the room, who were of color, to stand, and the educator and class discussed physical attributes (i.e., teeth and strength),” he wrote.

Martineau said that “holding a mock slave auction is unacceptable and violates the district’s core values. Simulations or role plays when teaching about historical atrocities or trauma are not appropriate, and these teaching methods are not to be used. They are unsound methods of teaching because they trivialize the experience of the victims and can leave students with the impression after the activity that they know what it was like to experience these atrocities.”

Months later in April, the same teacher detoured from the district’s curriculum by reading a book to the class that was recommended by a colleague. She allegedly used the N-word during a discussion about the text with students despite the racial slur not being in the book.

Martineau said the use of the epithet was dehumanizing and that it should never be said to students. Parents, Principal Kathlee A. Valenti, and the teacher, met soon after to discuss the two instances. The following day, the educator was accused of confronting one of the kids who reported her actions, which spurred the investigation and subsequent administrative leave.

Valenti was temporarily placed on leave between May 6 and May 16, but has since resumed her duties. Martineau not only condemned the teacher's actions, but outlined steps he and the district will take to ensure something of this magnitude does not happen again, and that the children impacted have a "smooth transition to sixth grade." As for the teacher's employment, the superintendent said personnel matters will be kept confidential.