School Slavery Re-enactment Leaves Student Traumatized

Friday, 20 Sep 2013 03:24 PM

By Alexandra Ward

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A Connecticut mother is still trying to get answers as to why her then-12-year-old daughter was allegedly subjected to a slavery reenactment and called the N-word during a school trip last year.

Sandra Baker, whose daughter was in seventh grade at Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy at the time, filed a complaint back in March with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. In the filing she claimed that her child, who is African-American, and her classmates were "terrorized" in November 2012 when they were forced to take part in an Underground Railroad slavery reenactment during a school trip to Nature's Classroom in Charlton, Mass., The Hartford Courant reported.

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The four-day trip reportedly included one night where the children had to pretend to pick cotton, pretend their white instructors were their "masters," and pretend they were on a slave ship. Baker's daughter also claimed that she was called the n-word and told she would be whipped, hanged, or have her Achilles cut if she were to run, WFSB 3 Connecticut reported.

Nature's Classroom is described on its website as a residential environmental education program with about a dozen sites in New England and New York, including four locations in Connecticut.

Baker and her husband spoke out this week at a school board meeting, saying her daughter suffered "social and emotional abuse" after the trip. She has since been pulled from the school district.

"I ask that you imagine these phrases being yelled at your 12-year-old child and their friends," Baker told the school board Tuesday night. "'Bring those (N-words) to the house over there. (N-word) if you can read, there's a problem. Dumb, dark-skinned (N-word). How dare you look at me?'"

The school has yet to comment on the allegations.

John G. Santos, the director of Nature's Classroom, said the slavery reenactments have "validity" as educational lessons.

"It's a historical event, it's a simulation," he told The Courant Thursday. But, he said, "no one at Nature's Classroom would ever endorse the use of the N-word. ... Can it happen? Of course it can happen. Stupid things happen."

The state's African American Affairs Commission has denounced the school's field trip.

"It's abominable. No way in the world should this be happening here or anywhere in 2013," Glenn Cassis, head of the Commission, told The Courant. "Kids at that age being traumatized in a re-enactment ... makes no sense. Why has this been going on for so many years?"

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Related stories:

Clarence Thomas Likens Affirmative Action to Slavery in Opinion

Mississippi Abolishes Slavery

Marcus Vick, Riley Cooper in Online Firefight Over Using N-Word (Video)  

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