Parents outraged over slavery essay question at Novi Middle School

(WXYZ) - A middle school student is getting some backlash after she spoke up about a controversial essay topic given to her class.

It was a story 7 Action News told viewers about Wednesday evening and has gotten more than 200 comments on the 7 Action News Facebook page.

Kaya James, 13, got a lesson she did not expect a week ago after learning about the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution in her History class at Novi Middle School.

According to Kaya, her teacher asked the students whether they would rather be a slave or a factory worker.

Kaya said she was stunned to see the majority of the class raised their hands when they were asked if they would rather be a slave, stating they would get free food and board.

The 8th graders were told to write an essay about their choice in class.

"I was disappointed because what slaves went through is really humongous and for them to say they would rather be a slave is really disappointing," said Kaya.

"I just don't think they are being taught slavery in its entirety," said Kaya's mother, Tina James. "If you fully understood the psychological aspects of being a slave you would never choose it."

Steve Matthews, Novi Community Schools superintendent, told 7 Action News he immediately looked into what happened after Tina called the school and the question was removed from the lesson.

Thursday, Kaya’s mother Tina James told 7 Action News several students were upset with her for speaking up.

Matthews calls the backlash unfortunate and will be meeting with the principal about how to address the school about the behavior of a few of the students.

He will be meeting with teachers at the school about how they can restructure the lesson.

"What it suggests to me as a district, we need to do a better job of helping our students understand the devastating impacts of slavery back in the 1800s," said Matthews.

Kaya, who wants to be an attorney one day, said she is glad she spoke up and happy she had a part in changing the way history is taught at her school.

"I don't want anything to be centered around my teacher because I really like him and I think he's a great teacher," said Kaya.  "The school is a great school... it's just that question is really offensive and it's disappointing what the responses were."

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