Mock Slave Auctions 'Profoundly' Traumatize Students, State Investigation Finds

A private school in Bronxville, New York held mock slave auctions in several fifth grade classrooms that “had a profoundly negative effect” on children, a state investigation revealed. A teacher at The Chapel School was fired after having white students bid on Black classmates during a March 5 incident.

On May 29, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced an agreement with the school to change the way it approaches diversity and inclusion. The school will have to hire a chief diversity officer, establish a staff diversification plan, and increase financial aid to allow for a diverse student body. It will also be required to establish a formal complaint procedure for students and parents to report harassment and discrimination.

“Every young person — regardless of race — deserves the chance to attend school free of harassment, bias, and discrimination,” James said in a statement. “Lessons designed to separate children on the basis of race have no place in New York classrooms, or in classrooms throughout this country.” James’ office began to investigate the private Lutheran school after it was reported that a fifth grade teacher, who is white, conducted reenactments of a slave auction in two separate social studies classes.

The teacher asked the African American students in each class to exit the classroom and stand in the hallway. Then the teacher placed imaginary chains or “shackles” on the students’ necks, wrists, and ankles before having them walk back into the classroom. Once in class, the African American students were made to line up against the wall, and white students were made to bid on their Black classmates to reenact slave auctions. The investigation found that the reenactments had a “profoundly negative effect” on all the children, but especially the Black students. It also revealed that parents had made previous complaints to the school administration about the school’s lack of racial sensitivity and concerns that the school failed to take appropriate steps to address the complaints.

In a statement to The North Star, Principal Michael Schultz said the school took immediate action following the March 5 incident. The school confirmed that it terminated the teacher’s employment following the reenactments.

The Chapel School reached out to the Lutheran Counseling Center and other ancillary mental health professionals to help with short- and long-term healing, Schultz said. It also hired Dr. Candace Barriteau Phaire, an educator specializing in racial sensitivity and diversity training, to lead anti-discrimination discussions in the school community. “We accept responsibility for the overall findings, and we are committed to implementing all items outlined by the attorney general to help us deepen our cultural competence,” Schultz said in his statement. “The Chapel School reached a timely resolution with the attorney general to ensure that our focus remains on the wellbeing of our community and we move forward in continued reflection, action, and growth.” The school, which enrolls students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, said Dr. Phaire is being considered as its new diversity consultant. It also agreed to commit new financial aid to increase diversity in its student body. Tuition costs at the private school can reach $14,000.

“The Chapel School was founded on a doctrine of equality and is proud to be one of the most diverse private schools in the area with a minority student body of 43 percent,” Schultz said. “As a community, we will continue to embrace our mission of service and strive toward academic excellence in a loving, Christ-centered environment that provides an equal experience for all students.”

The teacher involved in the auction reenactments has been identified as Rebecca Antinozzi. Her attorneys denied she held mock auctions and said that she planned to take legal action against the school.

“Since the first inaccurate reporting on the history lesson occurred in March, Ms. Antinozzi has received overwhelming support from her students and their parents, including many African American parents and students,” law firm Cuddy and Feder said in a statement to USA Today.

The statement continued, “As they will attest, Ms. Antinozzi is a devoted, tireless, and beloved teacher who respects and cares for all of her students. As she has consistently stated, the history lesson has been falsely characterized, and many portions of the lesson as reported did not occur.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.