History Students on Field Trip Made to Reenact Slavery – Is Lesson Over the Line? [POLL/VIDEO]
In an effort to teach students a living history lesson on slavery, one district may have taken, in the opinion of one parent, taken it a bit too far.
The school district in question took a group of 7th graders on a field trip to a camp in Massachusetts where, on the 3rd night of the trip, they were instructed to reenact slavery, complete with hurling “n-bombs” at their fellow classmates and told to do chores that slaves would have done back in the day.
This in a predominately minority district.
Imagine sending your child on a class trip, then finding out she and her classmates were called the "n" word and chased through the woods. It was part of a slavery re-enactment that some parents said crossed the line.
One couple said their 12-year-old daughter came home from the field trip with horror stories, and now they've filed a complaint against the school district.
"I ask that you imagine these phrases being yelled at our 12-year-old child and their friends," parent Sandra Baker said at a Hartford School Board meeting. "'Bring those (n-word) to the house over there. (N-word) if you can read, there's a problem. Dumb, dark-skinned (n-word). How dare you look at me?'"
Baker said screaming that at children on a field trip is abuse.
"They intentionally terrorized them and abused them on this field trip," she said.
Sandra Baker and her husband James Baker have been on a 10-month fight with the Hartford School District that they've now taken to the school board.
It started during the past school year when their daughter was a seventh-grader at the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy. She and her classmates went on a four-day trip to the Nature's Classroom in Charlton, MA.
On the third night, there was a slavery re-enactment that Sandra Baker said none of the parents knew about.
James Baker shared his daughter's experiences with the Hartford School Board.
"'The instructor told me if I were to run, they would whip me until I bled on the floor and then either cut my Achilles so I couldn't run again, or hang me,'" he told the school board.
They pretended to be on a slave ship.
They pretended to pick cotton.
They pretended their instructors were their masters.
The Bakers said the program told kids they didn't have to participate in the Underground Railroad skit, but were only told about the re-enactment 30 minutes before it began.
Sandra Baker said she can't believe the school has been taking part in the trip for years and never saw a problem with it. She's filed complaints with the state Department of Education, Human Rights Commission and offices of civil rights.
"It's a town of people of color," she said. "Really. I mean, Hartford. You could not see something was wrong with this?"
I get the whole “living history” aspect of the field trip. The rationale behind it was to demonstrate the horrors of slavery by reenacting it. But there had to be a better way.
I’ll tell you how.
Take them to a movie; but don’t subject them to what would be considered abuse.
And it is, plain and simple, over the line.
(With special thanks to my friend Freddie Colon for finding this story!)