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School issues apology after gym class plays runaway slave game during Black History Month

This Virginia elementary school regrets the activity

Charles H. Phillips/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A Virginia elementary school is under fire for a Black History Month gym activity involving student portrayals of slaves.

What are the details?

Madison's Trust Elementary School in Brambleton, Virginia, has issued an apology after a gym class featured a game that encouraged students to pretend they were slaves moving through the Underground Railroad.

The activity was planned for February's Black History Month and reportedly took place earlier this month.

Students in third through fifth grades took part in the game. According to the Loudoun Times-Mirror, educators set up an obstacle course in the gym and encouraged children to pretend they were navigating the Underground Railroad to secure their freedom.

An African-American student played the role of the slave, according to Loudoun NAACP Chapter President Michelle Thomas. Thomas said that she received several complaints from parents who were concerned about the game.

"Obviously, he's the only one that's black, he's the only one that could have ever been related to someone who used to be a slave, and imagine him carrying that stigma all through school," Thomas said.

According to the Times-Mirror, "Thomas later clarified that the student may not have been the only black person in that class, but she said the student was at least among a small number of black children participating in the 'game.'"

What did the school principal say?

Principal David Stewart issued an apology for cultural insensitivity in a statement dated Feb. 12.

"The lesson was culturally insensitive to our students and families ... my sincerest apology to our students and school community," Stewart said. "This is contradictory to our overall goals of empathy, affirmation and creating a culturally responsive learning environment for all."

Stewart noted that the information on the Underground Railroad will be re-addressed in classes in "an appropriate and respectful context."

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