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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

School Designated Black Student to Be a Slave in Underground Railroad Class Exercise

Elementary school that allowed underground railroad exercise

Brambleton, VA — An elementary school in Virginia is under fire following a Black History Month activity called Underground Railroad where students pretended to be “runaway slaves.” Parents and civil rights activists slammed the school and said the lesson was “culturally insensitive.”

Earlier this month, students in third, fourth and fifth grade at Madison’s Trust Elementary School were instructed to play a game during their physical education class. They were divided into six groups where they had to work as a team to finish an Underground Railroad-themed obstacle course.

The Underground Railroad, which is comprised of secret networks and safe houses, was established in the early to mid-19th century in the U.S. to help African-American slaves to escape.

Parents, as well as the community, criticized the elementary school especially when reports surfaced saying that an African-American student was particularly designated as the slave.

“Obviously, 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,” Michelle Thomas, president of the Loudoun NAACP, said. “Imagine him carrying that stigma all through school.”

Meanwhile, school principal David Stewart has since sent a letter to the community on February 12 to apologize over the incident, which was not part of the course’s lesson plan.

“The lesson was culturally insensitive to our students and families. I extend my sincerest apology to our students and school community,” Stewart said. “This incident has revealed a need for us to further explore how we can ensure this will never happen again.”

Stewart added that the lesson will be taught to the students again in a different manner and they will also form an “equity and culturally responsive team” to prevent such incident to happen in the future.