A local family says a Lakeshore High School teacher is testing racial waters. The accusations came after Christine Schroeder gave her AP English class a vocabulary exam, which labeled the city of Benton Harbor as "sordid." By definition, sordid means "dirty, low class and wretched.”
At least 20 honors students took the exam, in which they were asked to match the term "sordid" with the following sentence, "Many people assume that all areas of Benton Harbor are______.” The sentence continued by saying, “…they don’t consider the neat arts district with its cool restaurants and shops.”
Problem is, Benton Harbor, located less than ten miles north of Stevensville is 92-percent black, while Lakeshore Community Schools is 86-percent white. Charity Burton’s daughter happens to be a minority at Lakeshore High School. She says her child instantly knew the test was inappropriate.
"Absolutely, she knew what she was doing; she knew what her intent was. She's very unintelligent for making the kind of choice that she made,” Burton said in regards to Schroeder’s decision.
School leaders admit the language was in poor taste and say the exam will never be used again. The district has since partnered with the Consortium for Community Development to improve race relations within Lakeshore Schools. There are also plans to send Schroeder, who's had no previous disciplinary issues, to Grand Rapids where she'll undergo further training at the Institute for Healing Racism.
"There was no malice whatsoever in this situation. It was an honest mistake, just an honest mistake and we all make them,” Superintendent Cindy Vujea said.
School leaders would not say if Schroeder had been disciplined. However, the Burtons say administrators placed the English teacher on unpaid administrative leave for the entire week. It's expected that she'll return to class on Monday March 19 to begin instructing again.
Unfortunately this is not the first time Lakeshore High School has made headlines for racial remarks. In December, graffiti was discovered in a school bathroom, which used the “n-word” and told black students to "go back home". Despite an investigation, the district never discovered who wrote the racist remark.
If you’d like to view Schroeder’s entire test, just click on the document attached to this story.