A Georgia schoolteacher’s attempts to “teach outside the box” with an interactive game involving the Underground Railroad quickly backfired on her when a grandparent of one of her students complained that the lesson trivialized slavery and triggered her granddaughter.
The Atlanta Constitution reports that Hope Largent, a teacher at Cheatam Hill Elementary School (pictured above) in suburban Atlanta, just wanted to try something new with her 10-year-old students in the state-mandated lessons about the Civil War era and slavery’s role in the conflict.
As part of the game, the students roll dice and then face different conditions in different “stations” around the classroom that are intended to replicate stops in an Underground Railroad.
But Delores Bunch-Keemer, whose granddaughter was in the class, took offense with the exercise and complained to the school. Unsatisfied with the school’s response, she took to social media and the outrage soon followed.
“I am sure we are aware the institution of slavery is barbaric, is indentured servitude with little chance of obtaining freedom and cannot be assimilated with work for which some type of compensation is earned,” Bunch-Keemer wrote on Facebook. “I pray that the severity of slavery and its effects on African-Americans is not belittled and compared to a career where you could ‘be beaten if you don’t like your work.’”
The story quickly went viral and, of course, was wildly exaggerated. Some of the reports claimed Bunch-Keemer’s granddaughter was the only black student in the classroom (not true, according to the school) and implied that the game was racist because the girl kept returning to the Plantation House station when she rolled the dice (also untrue, according to the school).
To their credit, administrators at the school stood by Largent and have continued to do so. In a letter sent home with students earlier this week, school officials said the school encourages teachers to think outside the box.
“The purpose of the lesson was to provide an innovative and engaging learning opportunity that addresses the 5th grade Civil War standards,” the letter said. “The idea behind the simulation was for the students to have a better understanding of how difficult it was to make it to the north and the types of struggles they would face and overcome.”
But despite the fact that both her colleagues at the school and other parents from the class have rallied around her, Largent tells the AJC that she will not be using the simulation game in class again.