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12-Year-Old Student Chased Through the Woods and Called the N-Word as Part of "Educational" Slavery Reenactment

Parents sue Connecticut school over questionable school trip.
 
 
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A Connecticut couple is filing a human rights complaint against the Hartford school system after their 12-year-old daughter came back from a four-day school field trip to Nature's Classroom in Charlton, Mass., and alleged that her teachers chased her through the woods and called her racial slurs as part of a slavery reenactment during a field trip. 

According to WFSB-TV, James and Sandra Baker's daughter described students being led into a dark room, where they were lined up and asked to imagine what it would be like to watch their fathers be killed by slave masters before they were all loaded onto slave ships. The instructor then reportedly ordered the students to sit closely together, where they would be forced to relieve themselves on one another and likely get sick. Afterwards, the students were taken to the woods, where they were yelled at and called animals as they pretended to pick cotton. Some where told to dance for the instructors as entertainment; others were told that they would have their a Achilles tendon cut or find themselves hanged if they attempted to run away. 

According to the girl's mother, several of the teachers referred to the students by the N-word for what was described as 'historical accuracy." 

"As an African-American parent, I carefully consider how my children receive messages about racial identity, and I do this because all too often these messages are not positive," Baker said when she brought her concerns to the Hartford Board of Education. "There is no way I would have allowed our child to participate in this aspect of the field trip had we been given the choice."

According to Baker's daughter, the children were given the opportunity to opt out of the activity, but were only told so roughly thirty minutes before the "festivities" began. And even then, the program' rather misleading title—"Underground Railroad Skit"—gave students very little in the way of fair warning. 

This is not the first time that the program has come under fire, as a similar outcry occurred in 2007, when the parents of Maya Saakvitne asked their daughter to rehash her three-day field trip. But Hartford, a town known for its ethnic diversity, has apparently been taking part of the trip for years, with little protest on behalf of the school. The Bakers, however, have since removed their daughter from the school district. The camp has not commented on the complaints. 

Rod Bastanmehr is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @rodb.

 
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