A California mother is raising awareness of the questionable methods her child’s school uses to teach students about slavery.
Shardé Carrington, a 31-year-old paralegal and stay-at-home mom in Los Angeles County, CA, was shocked to receive an email from educators at Gretchen A. Whitney High School detailing a planned slavery simulation for eight-graders.
Carrington was contacted via a mass email sent out to parents by history teacher Kevin Harp. According to the email, the simulation consists of tying the students wrists together with masking tape and having them lie on the floor shoulder-to-shoulder. As the students lie on the floor in the role of slaves, they are shown clips from the miniseries Roots. The teachers assume the role of slave masters.
Harp wrote: “The idea is for them to be uncomfortable and to feel mistreated, like a piece of property. However, please rest assured that your child will not be physically or emotionally hurt/harmed in any way.”
Harp then explains that the activity has been performed at Whitney High School for years. According to the history teacher, parents have said in the past that “the activity has led to some very relevant and interesting discussions with their child.”
Carrington, who is African-American, wrote a critical reply to the school and posted both her response and the teacher’s original message to Facebook.
One of Carrington’s greatest issues with the activity is that she believes is “minimizes” slavery. She requested her son, Joshua Thomas, not participate.
In the most scathing potion of her email, Carrington asked “Would you simulate rape in order to encourage sensitivity toward its survivors? Will the children pretend to be in Japanese interment camps as a lesson as well?”
The concerned mother also questioned Harp’s assurance that students would not be emotionally harmed by the experience. She wrote: “Your email states that the children will not be physically hurt or emotionally harmed in any way. This is not a promise you should make, as you cannot predict how any one person will react to such a graphic exercise.”
Carrington received a reply from the Chair of the Social Studies Department, Derek Jeans–who claims the simulation was instituted 10 years ago and is drawn from a “nationally recognized supplier of curriculum.”
Teachers ultimately went through with the activity, though they respected Carrington’s wishes and allowed her son to study independently in a separate room during the simulation.
Although some social media users sided with the school, most voiced support for the frustrated mother and called out the school’s approach to social studies.
— Mike Osborne (@realmightymike) September 17, 2017
— Rebecca Cepeda (@_rebeccacepeda) September 17, 2017