A Colorado second-grader was pulled out of class Wednesday after he showed up to give a presentation about Martin Luther King, Jr. -- but with his face painted black.
KRDO-TV reported Sean King's school project was for "wax museum day" at Meridian Ranch Elementary School in Peyton, Colo.
"He said, 'Mom, I want to wear a black suit because that’s what he wore, a black tie, a white shirt and also I want to do my face black and wear a mustache,'" Michelle King-Roca, Sean's mother, said.
Parents were on hand to watch the presentations, but before it was Sean's turn, King-Roca said the principal came up to her and said Sean had to take the face paint off.
"There was a person in the faculty that had an issue with it,” King-Roca told the station. She said she and her husband ignored the request and sat waiting for their son to present.
But that's when the three of them were all called to the principal's office for a discussion with school officials. King-Roca said she asked what the consequences would be if her son didn't take the face paint off, and when she was treated rudely and couldn't get a straight answer, decided to leave.
There were no specific costume guidelines for the project, but school spokeswoman Stephanie Meredith told KRDO the face paint violated a policy against offensive or disruptive behavior.
“When other students are offended by something, it is the principal’s role that the educational environment is safe for all students,” Meredith said.
One mother who was there for the presentations told the station that a group of parents thought it was ridiculous for Sean to be asked to remove his face paint.
"If my own son, who is blonde, was chosen to do Martin Luther King, Jr., I would have gotten him a black wig and painted his face too,” Pam Page said.
The local NAACP president said the school was right to ask Sean to take the face paint off.
"By having blackface as part of his presentation, it ended up harkening back to a really tragic time in the life of this country, a time when blackface was used by entertainers primarily to demean African-Americans," Rosemary Harris Lytle told KRDO.
Sean said he didn't mean to offend anyone.
“They thought it was inappropriate and it will be disrespectful to black people, and I say it’s not. I like black people. It’s just a costume, and I don’t want to insult anybody,” he said.
The school has said Sean is welcome to return.