School sorry for Underground Railroad activity

A school in Virginia has apologized for a “culturally insensitive” activity about the Underground Railroad held during a physical education class.

According to the Loudoun Times-Mirror, students at Madison’s Trust Elementary School in Ashburn, Va., participated in an obstacle course representing the Underground Railroad pretending to be slaves.

Michelle Thomas, president of the Loudoun County chapter of the NAACP, told the Times-Mirror an African-American child in the class was designated a slave during the activity. Thomas told the paper she heard about the activity after hearing complaints from parents.

“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, and imagine him carrying that stigma all through school,” Thomas told the Times-Mirror.

The school’s principal, David Stewart, sent a letter to students on Feb. 12 apologizing for the activity.

“This is contradictory to our overall goals of empathy, affirmation, and creating a culturally responsive learning environment for all,” wrote Stewart, as reported by The Washington Post. Stewart called the activity “culturally insensitive,” said the report.

The lesson was meant to be a cooperative exercise where students worked together to move through six stations representing parts of the Underground Railroad, said Wayde Byard, public information officer with Loudoun County Public Schools.

Byard told USA TODAY the school is working with the local NAACP to ensure their curriculum is more “culturally attuned.”

“We still have some work to do,” he said.

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.


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