VENTNOR — A lawyer disputes an an account that a south Jersey teacher told her fourth-grade class there were "three good reasons for slavery."

Randi Carter Alston told New Jersey 101.5 that her daughter, Le'anni, became uncomfortable about going to school when the teacher discussed supposed positive aspects of slavery. Alston said her daughter is the only black child in the class. Alston had her daughter explain what the teacher said in a video posted to her Facebook page.

"Sometimes people didn't have time to grow crops and stuff," Le'anni said was the first reason.  "Some people wanted to be slaves ... and three there were good slave owners, or something like that." She also said the teacher followed up by having students offer reasons not to have slaves.

But an attorney who said he represented that teacher told New Jersey 101.5 in an email video contains "misleading information as to what actually occurred in the classroom."

"Unfortunately, there appears to be a disconnect between what was actually taught in the classroom and what the student may have conveyed to her mother," attorney Eric Goodwin wrote. "My client categorically denies saying what she is accused of saying in her classroom."

He declined to give the teacher's name, although Le'anni referred to her as "Miss Tinnuci." There is a teacher named Denise Tinnuci at Ventnor Elementary School, according to the school website.

Goodwin said the teacher was following a lesson plan about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, in a curriculum he said was approved by the state Department of Education.

Goodwin and the teacher declined to comment further about the incident. He wouldn't say what the lesson actually included or how specifically Le'anni's account was incorrect.

"At this time, my client and I would prefer to let the investigations run their course, so the correct facts can be adduced, rather than argue her position in the press or on Facebook," Goodwin said in an email.

Alston said the fact that it's an approved lesson makes it worse.

Ventnor school superintendent Ellen Johnson has not yet returned a message from New Jersey 101.5 seeking comment.

 

"If she's saying that this lesson was approved by the board of education I think that's an even worse problem that needs to be addressed," Alston told New Jersey 101.5 Monday.

She said she has not heard anything new from the school since a meeting last Friday with principal Carmela Somershoe and the district's attorney.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ.

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