Virginia elementary school sparks outrage for 'runaway slave' gym lesson, issues apology

Students, including minorities, were asked to act as members of the Underground Railroad in a gym class during Black History Month


                            Virginia elementary school sparks outrage for 'runaway slave' gym lesson, issues apology

An elementary school in Virginia issued an apology after facing heavy backlash during Black History Month for instructing children to pose as runaway slaves in their gym class.

The principal at the Trust Elementary School in Madison, Loudoun County, apologized after parents complained that teachers modeled a gym exercise  and asked students to act as members of the Underground Railroad.

The principal of the school, David Stewart, in a statement said: "The lesson was culturally insensitive to our students and families. I extend my sincerest apology to our students and school community.”

Along with issuing an apology, Stewart also said that school would formulate an “equity/culturally responsive team” to work on the issue.

Loudoun County Public School spokesperson Wayde Byard said that during the gym class, third-grade students were asked to overcome a physical barrier. Byard added that all the students in the exercise, including minorities, were asked to act as members of the Underground Railroad without specifically saying that students were asked to be slaves.



 

 

Shortly after the class, nearly ten families complained about their children participating in the activity.

The local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) President Michelle Thomas, while talking to NBC Washington, said: "It’s awful. It’s really insulting. It makes me feel unsafe because I have kids in Loudoun County Public Schools. It shows that there’s some implicit bias problems right here at this school," according to the New York Post.

Thomas added that there were three teachers who were involved in crafting the activity with the oversight of a school administrator.



 

 

The elementary school principal also added that the content covered during the gym class would be retaught to students "within an appropriate and respectful context," according to reports.

"A next step for us as a school involves the formation of an equity/culturally responsive team which will be comprised of school personnel and parent representatives," Stewart said.