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Tuesday
Sep242013

Interactive Underground Railroad Too Much, Says Project 21's LeBon

From the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up file comes another example of government-administered education run amok.

In testimony given before the Hartford (Connecticut) Board of Education last week, the parents of a then-11-year-old girl said their daughter endured a traumatic re-creation of the Underground Railroad in which she was allegedly called the n-word and chased through the woods.

According to the mother’s testimony, the dark and confined “slave ship” experience and reported berating of the kids by the staff of the Nature’s Classroom facility in Charlton, Massachusetts, was so intense that at least one other student in attendance at the 2012 field trip of the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy that they “started to believe some of the things the group leaders were saying.”

Offered for around 20 years, officials at Nature’s Classroom say their Underground Railroad experience has wide appeal, and they cannot find anyone in their employ who will admit to the purported abusive behavior.  Nonetheless, they have already “redesigned aspects of the Underground Railroad program” in the wake of the Baker family’s complaint.

Project 21 co-chairman Cherylyn Harley LeBon is appalled by the story.  She sees it as a failure of accountability on the part of government-run school officials.  She said:

In what appears to be yet another liberal educational experience gone awry, a magnet school in Hartford, Connecticut sent a 12-year-old black girl and her classmates on a field trip where instructors held a slavery reenactment.  Kids were chased through the woods and repetitively called by the n-word.

As reported by the Daily Caller, the programming of the field trip (the one in question happened in 2012) was organized through Nature’s Classroom.  They now deny the charges of the parents’ complaint.

The Underground Railroad activity took place on the third night of the school’s four-day visit to the Nature’s Classroom facility in Charlton, Massachusetts.  The role-playing simulation involved a mock slave ship experience, during which children were crammed into a dark room and told to imagine they’d just watched as their father was killed and that they might have to dance to entertain their masters.

That was followed by a plantation lesson in which the students, as “slaves,” were threatened and berated before being chased through the dark woods as they tried to escape to “Canada.”

The mother of the little girl at issue, Sandra Baker, maintains that she was unaware this sort of behavior was going to take place on the field trip.  She also says her subsequent concerns were dismissed by the principal at her daughter’s former school.

It has been ten months since the incident occurred, but the Baker family is still trying to have their grievances addressed.

As a mother of two school-aged children, I cannot imagine any principal or teacher who would think this is an appropriate way for children to learn about our nation’s history.  This is pretty egregious behavior, and parents should have been informed about the nature and the content of material that was involved.

This sort of thing — which can be really emotional — not only affects children of color, but all of students involved.  Why was it necessary to have children running through the woods at night?

This is one time, by the way, where the NAACP should be involved and offering support to the Baker family.  I called the president of the Greater Hartford NAACP, Abdul Shaid Ansari (also known as Mohammed Ansari), and I was delighted to hear they actually are assisting the Baker family.

This is a time when parents need to be ever-vigilant about what is being taught to their children (the Common Core curriculum, for example).  Since our children are with teachers and school officials between six and seven hours on most weekdays, we have every right to question what is being taught and oppose any agenda which is contrary to the values we hold dear. 

top photo credit: iStockPhoto

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