North Pole High School

North Pole High School 

A preliminary internal investigation has found a teacher at North Pole High School did not violate school policies or state or federal laws when teaching a Civil War course that included showing how the South's economic model was tied to slavery.

School board President Wendy Dominique, who is African American, told the Daily News-Miner on Saturday that the district did not find any rules broken.

"I believe the superintendent is reviewing the policy," she said.

From there Dominique said the superintendent will speak to the assistant superintendent, who will direct the Notrh Pole High School on whether any training or other action is necessary.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District initiated the investigation Oct. 24 after it became aware of the concerns, district spokeswoman Yumi McCulloch said in a Friday email to The Associated Press. Once the teacher was made aware of the concerns, the instructor stopped all activities related to the assignment.

The lesson was the first of two — one from the South's viewpoint, the next from the North's — and had students researching costs associated with a large plantation, including what crops to plant, how much yield per acre, the price and the costs of slave labor versus the profit of crop production.

The investigation included an interview with the teacher and reviews of emails to the school board and of social media posts.

No complaints were received from parents or students, McCulloch said. It was the fifth year the assignment has been used, with no known previous complaints.

The subject was raised at Tuesday's school board meeting, however, by some residents, including one who described the lesson as “Insensitive to the entire African American community and the state of Alaska as a whole."

Dominique spoke about the incident at the end of the meeting.

“We suffered hard. Our ancestors have suffered hard and we have people today being shot because of the color of their skin. I just really wish the district would look into this topic and assure our parents that our kids are getting positive information about African Americans besides always talking about our past,” she said. “Let’s bring our past to our future.”

McCulloch said the assignment was one part of a larger unit and stemmed from discussions with students about why the South fought for slavery and questions from students about how slavery could be justified.

"The lesson was intended to show how the South's economic model was tied to slavery and how the belief in the model had been handed down from generation to generation in the South," McCulloch said.

The next week's lesson included the North's response to slavery and the moral argument of the abolitionist movement.

The investigating officers found "the two lessons appear to be balanced," she said.

"The teacher's goal for the assignment was to help students understand the economic drivers behind the South's defense of slavery," McCulloch said.

News-Miner reporter Kyrie Long contributed to this report.

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