A Virginia elementary school used a disturbing game to teach its students about slavery.
Students at Madison's Trust Elementary School were instructed to pretend they were runaway slaves during a gym class lesson about the Underground Railroad, reports NBC Washington.
Students of all races in the 3rd-5th grades participated in the exercise. Loudoun County Public Schools spokesman Wayde Byard admitted the activity occurred but said students were never explicitly called slaves.
Loudoun NAACP Chapter President Michelle Thomas begs to differ and said she received several complaints from outraged parents.
“Loudoun County has a history of miseducating kids, number one, and perpetrating racist things amongst our students,” Thomas told The Loudoun Times-Mirror. “This is not the first one. This is the first one of many. This is the most egregious, and the timing is incredible.”
Thomas claims the lesson was created by teachers who were being supervised by an administrator.
Blavitize your inbox! Join our daily newsletter for fresh stories and breaking news.
Principal David Stewart apologized for the incident in a letter to parents on February 12.
"The lesson was culturally insensitive to our students and families. I extend my sincerest apology to our students and school community," he wrote. He also promised the lesson would be retaught "within an appropriate and respectful context."
"A next step for us as a school involves the formation of an equity/culturally responsive team which will be comprised of school personnel and parent representatives," Stewart added.
Loudoun County Public Schools plans to implement changes to prevent a similar issue from happening in the future. The Loudoun Freedom Center, an organization founded by Thomas, will help the system develop its new curriculum. Additionally, the county wants to form an equity taskforce.
Thomas says the Freedom Center has provided the system guidelines for teaching about slavery and other issues in the past but claims they were never used. She also said that parents have complained about past class exercises, including one in which students were allegedly told to pretend to be slaves, sharecroppers and landowners.
Virginia’s culture is under heavy scrutiny following its governor and attorney general's blackface scandals. Thomas believes local schools are partly to blame for the normalization of racially insensitive behavior that led to the officials deciding blackface was OK.
“[Attorney General Mark Herring] graduated from Loudoun Valley, so of course he wouldn’t know what he was doing, going up, dressing as blackface, because blackface is never discussed in the curriculum,” she said. “When we discuss Jim Crow, it doesn’t come up. The insensitivity is astronomical. We are in a racism crisis in Virginia, and the school is where it starts."
Now, check these out: