BRENTWOOD, TN (WSMV) - The superintendent of Williamson County Schools is apologizing for an "insensitive" homework task that was assigned to students.

It was assigned to an eighth-grade class at Sunset Middle School in Brentwood.

News4 spoke with Daniel Holmes-Fountain who remembered his sister acting uneasy about a homework assignment. Now he and his mom know why.

"What spoke to me, personally, moreover was the slave codes given the history of this country," Holmes-Fountain said.

Holmes-Fountain said his sister told him the assignment started in the classroom and turned into homework. What also frustrated him was that no context was given to the students.

"There is a responsibility among the administration, among teachers, and among society in general to educate people properly about how to go about teaching very impressionable people about subjects like this," Holmes-Fountain said.

His mom called Sunset Middle School upset.

"These things have ripple effects. Our actions have consequences, unintended or intended," Holmes-Fountain said.

Dr. Mike Looney tweeted a statement Thursday morning, saying that the assignment asked students to pretend their families owned slaves and to create a list of expectations for the slaves.

"Dear Sunset Middle School Families,

I have learned of an 8th grade social studies homework assignment that was insensitive and reflects poorly on our school community.

The assignment asked students to choose from a list of tasks to include pretending that the student's family owns slaves. Then the student could create a list of expectations for the family's slaves.

In short, the assignment was wholly inappropriate and doesn't reflect our district's commitment to treat all students with dignity and respect. The assignment has been pulled and no grades will be recorded.

Please accept my sincere apology for this gross error in judgment from WCS personnel. We have been providing professional training to our staff members on cultural awareness this year, but I admit that we have more work to do in this area. Please know, we are absolutely committed to ensuring all of our students feel welcome, wanted and worthwhile."

The teachers who assigned the project sent parents the following email:

Dear Eighth Grade Families,

This week, we gave our students an assignment we recognize was inappropriate. We have pulled the assignment, and no grade will be given.

We have and will be apologizing to our students. It was never our intention to hurt any of our students. The assignment was insensitive, and it did not promote Sunset Middle's goal of an inclusive environment.  Please accept our sincere apologies.


Susan Hooper and Kim Best

Dr. Tim Brown, the school's principal, also issued a statement:

Dear Sunset Family,

I am writing to apologize to our school community for an assignment made in 8th grade Social Studies this week. The assignment asked students to imagine that their families owned slaves and to develop a list of expectations for such. I recognize this assignment was inappropriate, and steps are being taken to rectify this situation. The assignment has been pulled from the 8th grade Social Studies classes. I know that a mistake was made by giving students this assignment.

My hope is to nurture a safe learning environment where all students feel valued, respected, and included, and we will continue to work toward that. I will continue to have meaningful conversations with my faculty around creating assignments that consider perspectives from all backgrounds.

I am very remorseful that this situation occurred.


Dr. Tim Brown

Holmes-Fountain hopes the apologies come with change. 

"I would like to see an apology attached to action. I feel like most apologies are not apologies unless they're followed up with actions that support change in behavior," Holmes-Fountain said.

The assignment has since been pulled and will not be graded.

This comes after a high school in Nashville conducted a controversial exercise as part of a Black History Month lesson. Click here to read more.

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Multimedia Producer

Kara is an Emmy Award-winning digital producer. She is a Cincinnati native and an alumna of the University of South Carolina. She previously worked at WRDW-TV in Augusta, Ga., before moving to Nashville five years ago to work at WSMV-TV.


A graduate of the University of Florida, Cameron joined News4 in December 2018.

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