Monroe teacher reinstated after race-based lesson prompts suspension

MONROE, Mich. (WXYZ) - He was weeks away from retirement when a lesson on African American history put Monroe Middle School teacher Al Barron on paid leave.

On Monday, the district gave him the green light to teach the remainder of the school year. But the question remains: Exactly what happened inside the classroom?

“She was really confused because she says, ‘Mom, nobody was offended,’' said Adrienne Aaron, whose daughter Amari is black. Amari was in Mr. Barron’s class a few weeks ago when the teacher played a video featuring white actors performing in blackface.

Mr. Barron says his assistant principal was observing the lesson, when she put a stop to it, and the district put the popular teacher on leave.

“I am real about the way I teach," said Barron, "And sometimes when you teach eighth grade, you’ve got to act like an eighth grader. And you have to get down to their level and get it into their minds.”

“A lot of people looked at it as we were discouraging discussion on African American history and so forth, and that’s not the case at all,” said Monroe Public Schools Superintendent Barry Martin.

The district declined to give specifics on why Mr. Barron was put on leave, but parents and former students all thought it was the wrong move. Soon, word of the decision hit national airwaves, as the panel on ABC's The View discussed the situation for several minutes Monday morning.

“The community at large has been so supportive of me," said Barron. "And how this ever made national and international news, I don’t know. But that’s all I ever wanted to do was make a difference in kids’ lives.”

While Barron’s return to the classroom is a step forward in closing this chapter, supporters of the teacher say they’d like a formal apology from district administrators.

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