An elementary school in Virginia had students play a 'game' that evoked escaping slavery and parents are upset

Getty/manonallardEmpty classroom (file)
  • An elementary school in Virginia is facing criticism from parents and the Loudoun NAACP chapter over a portion of its Black History Month curriculum.
  • Madison’s Trust Elementary School students in grades 3 through 5 were taught about the Underground Railroad in gym class, where the lesson was reimagined as a “game.”
  • Some parents felt that because the “game” was to avoid obstacles – as if escaping slavery through the Underground Railroad – students were assuming the role of runaway slaves.
  • “The lesson was culturally insensitive to our students and families,” Principal David Stewart said in a letter to parents. “I extend my sincerest apology to our students and school community.”

An elementary school in Virginia apologised after facing criticism from parents and the Loudoun NAACP chapter over an aspect of its Black History Month curriculum.

Madison’s Trust Elementary School students in grades 3 through 5 were taught about the Underground Railroad in gym class through a “game” where kids, including African-American students, had to go through an obstacle course, according to a local NBC News affiliate WRC-TV.

Wayde Byard a Loudoun County Public School spokesperson told the Loudoun Times-Mirror that students were not assigned roles as “slaves” or “slave owners” for the game. However, some parents felt that because the concept of the activity was to avoid obstacles, as if escaping slavery through the Underground Railroad, students were assuming the role of runaway slaves, the Times-Mirror said. INSIDER contacted the school system for more information.

At least 10 families in the Loudoun County Public Schools system complained, Byard told WRC-TV. Parents also brought the issue to the attention of the local NAACP chapter and its president, Michelle Thomas.


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“It’s awful,” Thomas told WRC-TV. “It’s really insulting. It makes me feel unsafe because I have kids in Loudoun County Public Schools.”

Madison’s Trust Elementary School Principal David Stewart apologised in a letter sent out on February 12.

“The lesson was culturally insensitive to our students and families,” Stewart said in the letter. “I extend my sincerest apology to our students and school community.”

He said in the letter that the specific part of the curriculum would be re-taught “to ensure that all the students have a full understanding of the material, within an appropriate and respectful context.”

Speaking to the Times-Mirror, Thomas said that this was not the first incident like this within the Loudoun County Public School system.

“Slavery was not a joke,” Thomas told school board last week, the Times-Mirror reported. “You didn’t get to choose.”

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