At a time when campus racism is on the rise, some school districts are defending racially incentive classroom exercises.
In one of the most recent incidents, the administration at BASIS Phoenix Central came under fire from a parent of a Black third-grader who complained that he was chosen to walk between a line of students while they screamed and humiliated him, something she said affected him deeply, 10New.com, an ABC News affiliate, reported on Wednesday.
The classroom activity was a reenactment of the racist attacks on the Little Rock Nine, a group of Black teenagers who broke the segregation barrier at an all-White high in the capital city of Arkansas in 1957.
Despite the parent’s concerns about her young child, school official politely said they planned to continue using the exercise.
“While the school has received an overwhelmingly positive response from families on the style in which to deliver information about a difficult topic, we understand the sensitive nature of the content and would never be intentionally blind to how students or parents are feeling about it and engaging with it,” a Facebook statement said, adding that the child’s participation was voluntary.
However, some education experts have said the exercise is inappropriate.
“The issue is not whether or not the students volunteered because I would imagine young students would volunteer to do all kinds of things, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily understand the gravity of that,” said Neal Lester, the director for Project Humanities at Arizona State University. “It makes me wonder how and if these students are really being taught lessons that are healthy for them.”
In March, New Hanover County Schools in Wilmington, North Carolina dismissed objections to a role-playing slave game for elementary school students, WECT-TV reported.
That response came after a grandmother, who is African-American, was outraged that her granddaughter’s fourth-grade teacher led the class in a game that included shackles, plantations, severe punishment and simulated slaves running toward freedom.
The Underground Railroad board game, called Escaping Slavery, involved giving students a Freedom Punch Card, that reads, “If your group runs into trouble four times, you will be severely punished and sent back to the plantation to work as a slave.”
The school district said it approved the activity because it was conducted in small groups with students discussing the activity with the teacher.
In February, a South Carolina mother was furious that her 10-year-old son was told to pick cotton and sing a slave song while on a field trip to the Carroll School, Fox News reported. African-Americans constructed the Carroll School in 1929, and it serves today as a center to help teach Black history during the Great Depression.
The school district claimed that it was a learning experience and denied that the cotton picking and slave song had anything to do with slavery.