An elementary school in Virginia is seeing several staff members go through re-training after an incident where students were asked to participate in "runaway slave games."
Third, fourth and fifth grade students were being taught about slavery during Black History Month.
Like many curriculums, Madison Trust Elementary encourages lessons that get the kids moving, communicating and working as a team.
Teachers decided the best way to do that during Black History Month was to split gym classes into groups and pretend to be slaves overcoming physical obstacles on the underground railroad. They were asked to do things like move through hula hoops and scooter around without touching the floor.
The lesson drew immediate criticism from parents, particularly since the school is predominantly white. Local NAACP chapter president Michelle Thomas received several complaints and spoke to the media about one child in particular.
"Obviously, if he's the only one that's black, he's the only one that could have ever been related to someone who used to be a slave, and imagine him carrying that stigma all through school."
Thomas also went on to explain that her chapter, and most other NAACP chapters, get heaps of complaints every year about schools asking children to take on roles like slave and slave owner during lessons on slavery. Ms. Thomas would like to stress, once again, that this is not appropriate as slavery was never a choice or a game and should not be taken so lightly.
The school agrees and has taken a proactive role in rectifying the situation. Not only was the lesson scrapped, it was re-framed and re-taught entirely.
Students who got the initial lesson were then talked to. Administrators and teachers explained that adults can make mistakes, too - and that they did by treating slavery as a fun game.
The Principal sent out a letter that read, in part:
"This is contradictory to our overall goals of empathy, affirmation, and creating a culturally responsive learning environment for all. The lesson was culturally insensitive to our students and families. I extend my sincerest apology to our students and school community."
And a spokesperson for the county told media outlets:
"The lesson was retaught and the mistakes with the original lesson discussed with students. As adults, we feel it is proper to model conduct and accept responsibility when a mistake is made."
Twitter is pretty fired up over the incident.
@BuzzFeedNews Cool now let's play Who Can Escape the Burning Building or maybe Cockpit Carnage so kids can learn about 9/11...— k.r.y.s. (@k.r.y.s.) 1550846527.0
@shomaristone @nbcwashington @LCPSOfficial Holy shit. I mean, seriously. Who thought this was a good idea? Whoever… https://t.co/8iM8rAJjbK— Carol GB (@Carol GB) 1550802528.0
@theblaze Are they just looking to piss people off. I mean can people just attempt to use common sense. 🤦🏽♀️ 🤦🏽♀️ 🤦🏽♀️— Tina Martinez (@Tina Martinez) 1550911298.0
@salimadofo @AfricanaCarr So no mention of firing the teacher?— J3Elevation (@J3Elevation) 1550849310.0
@shomaristone @nbcwashington @LCPSOfficial I’m a teacher in Loudoun. I work hard to make sure my lessons are not on… https://t.co/4odjaO2Rm4— kiki (@kiki) 1550802653.0
@BuzzFeedNews When people wonder why diversity in positions of power is important - THIS. This is why.— Garrett Shireman (@Garrett Shireman) 1550858000.0
@theblaze I am going to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt that the intention was good, however somewhere in… https://t.co/q18itZVNil— I💜the80’s (@I💜the80’s) 1550911373.0
THIS RIGHT HERE ... I am so tired of giving white folks who KNOW BETTER the benefit of the doubt & EXTRA chances f… https://t.co/BDNhBBlhOX— lawgurl (@lawgurl) 1550850716.0
@lawgurl Come on what Rock did she/he crawl out from under that didn't know that was a no-no? What have you been do… https://t.co/FdahLv0PSD— brendaisapoet (@brendaisapoet) 1550933036.0
@brendaisapoet This is either a case of Ignorant white folks thinking they wouldn't get caught because afterall it'… https://t.co/SU88yNBGZH— lawgurl (@lawgurl) 1550933640.0
Educator Jamie Gerding was inspired to share an impromptu 10-tweet lesson on how slavery is taught in schools and it's terrifyingly eye-opening.
Students were instructed to play a “runaway-slave-game”—-This is outrageous. It needs to stop. Let’s also talk abou… https://t.co/AY6nopns3l— Jaime (@Jaime) 1550877164.0
Open your social studies textbooks and read the sections on slavery & Black History. What do you notice? Whose voic… https://t.co/zHQAsdMdQL— Jaime (@Jaime) 1550877165.0
Is slavery glorified? Do the very few pages of the text include examples of happy times and lead to inferences that… https://t.co/9MVTqrCjKx— Jaime (@Jaime) 1550877168.0
Are we asking students to take the perspective of the slave owner and respond as the slave owner? (What’s worse tha… https://t.co/tKHgNMtbrF— Jaime (@Jaime) 1550877170.0
Are we calling slave owners European traders? Are we viewing slavery from the enslaved person’s perspective only to… https://t.co/lSRSnzejoD— Jaime (@Jaime) 1550877171.0
Are we teaching the contributions of Black Americans with stereotypes and biases when there are more resources than… https://t.co/fqV7r6HBEg— Jaime (@Jaime) 1550877173.0
This is just as harmful as making kids perform simulations.This continues to perpetuate stereotypes and biases and… https://t.co/zJEfhpq00U— Jaime (@Jaime) 1550877174.0
continuing to impact our country, and it hides the true history of the US. If you are a teacher look at your books… https://t.co/8SEcuD3cUI— Jaime (@Jaime) 1550877175.0
Participate in #ClearTheAir. Follow amazing Black men and women (I’ll retweet an amazing list). Do anything but us… https://t.co/E9CTJPUOMk— Jaime (@Jaime) 1550877175.0
Watch this to find out why our textbooks look like this. 10/10. https://t.co/b5oVnYNhZH— Jaime (@Jaime) 1550877176.0
Did the teachers go too far? Should they be fired? Is the whole thing one big misunderstanding?
Or is this exactly what people of color mean when they talk about systemic racism and White privilege.