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Teacher has 5th grade students in ND reenact George Floyd arrest

Published: May. 12, 2021 at 4:20 AM EDT
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WAHPETON, N.D. (KVRR) - A North Dakota public school teacher is on administrative leave after she had students reenact the arrest of George Floyd.

Barb Michelson, a fifth grade teacher at Wahpeton Elementary School, had students in her class reenact the Floyd arrest as part of what was intended to be “a teachable moment,” according to district officials. She has been on administrative leave since last week.

“When people hear reenactment of the George Floyd situation, I’m sure they think about him pinned down on the ground, knee on the neck... We want to clarify that that was not the case,” said Superintendent Rick Jacobson of Wahpeton Public Schools.

Barb Michelson, a fifth grade teacher at Wahpeton Elementary School, is on administrative leave...
Barb Michelson, a fifth grade teacher at Wahpeton Elementary School, is on administrative leave after she had students in her class reenact George's Floyd arrest as part of what was intended to be “a teachable moment.”(Source: Wahpeton Public Schools, KVRR via CNN)

School investigators say the demonstration took place after a student asked a question about the arrest and death of Floyd. It was used to show how the position used in his arrest could affect students’ breathing.

“We do know that students did have their hands behind their back, they were on the floor and it was being used as a teachable moment of how wrong this is… Students were then asked to stand up and check their pulse. From there, the activity concluded,” said Principal Jake Dodge at Wahpeton Elementary.

Jacobson says the situation could have been handled differently, and changes will come. He earlier called the activity “inappropriate and insensitive.”

“We, as a district, have to figure out what can we do to take on those types of tough questions moving forward because it was one of those things that was caught up in the moment. But it could have been a teachable moment if we had it done in a different manner,” Jacobson said.

School officials say staff and students will receive tools to encourage understanding and build community.

“We’re going to analyze factors that influence but are not limited to hiring practices, professional development, teaching and learning and behavioral discipline,” said Dr. David Woods, an English teacher at Wahpeton High School.

Michelson will stay on administrative leave until the district finishes its investigation.

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