Michigan school suspends teacher for worksheet comparing Obama to monkeys

Educator in Michigan’s Roeper School, co-founded by refugee from Nazi Europe, says she didn’t notice former president’s picture among different kinds of monkeys.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A teacher in a Michigan school for gifted children was suspended last week for giving her students a worksheet that implicitly compared former president Barack Obama to monkeys, Fox News reported.

The Roeper high school biology teacher had passed out a page instructing her students to find the primates among pictures of all kinds of animals. Right between two pictures of monkeys was one of the first president of color in American history.

According to the school’s director of diversity, who is black herself, when it was brought to the administration’s attention, the teacher reacted with “horror” and was “almost beating herself up, because she said, ‘How did I miss this?’”

The teacher herself is a member of a minority population, being of Asian-Pacific American extraction.

The worksheet was not her own creation. It was part of a lesson in evolutionary anthropology written by two undergraduate students in Duke University. The report said that the sheet has since been removed from the university’s website.

In an apologetic letter to the parent body, the school wrote, “The choice to use this piece of curriculum was completely inconsistent with our School’s philosophy and mission and we sincerely apologize for its use and the harm it has caused.”

The administration said that the teacher had taken “responsibility and admits the mistake of not properly vetting the resource.” However, because “we know that is not enough,” they stated that she had been put on administrative leave “until further notice.”

Roeper School offered counseling to anyone who needed help after seeing “the disturbing racial offense” contained in the assignment. In addition, the report said that the school “vowed a double-down effort to train teachers on racial bias.”

The school was founded in 1941 by Annemarie and George Roeper.

Annemarie was not quite 20 when Germany annexed her native Austria, and she fled with her father to Switzerland on the last train to freely cross the border to meet her mother, who had gone ahead a year earlier. Although the family was Lutheran, her father was of Jewish heritage, which put them in danger from the Nazis.

Her parents had been premier educators in Austria, founding a number of schools, one of which still exists today. After the family immigrated to the United States in 1939, Annemarie continued in their path after marrying George, who had helped the family in their escape.

In 1956, their educational institution became only the second school in America to focus solely on gifted education. With the goal of “educating children to become thoughtful, humane adults,” according to its website, the school has a culturally and racially diverse student body.

Last May, the school came out with an anti-racism resolution that supported “social justice” and condemned “all forms of bullying, microaggressions, hate speech, and violence.”