School near Atlanta comes under fire for slavery recess game

A suburban school district near Atlanta is reeling under accusations of racism, as students at Camp Creek Elementary School in Lilburn, Ga. allege their teacher led them in a slavery-themed recess game. Third graders at the Gwinnett County academy told Atlanta’s Channel 2 Action News that their teacher organized a tag-like game in which some youngsters played slave catchers while other played slave fugitives. School leaders confirm that the game took place last week, but contend it was instigated by the students and that the teacher was not involved.

Students painted a different portrait of the incident to Channel 2. Three of the four students who participated in the game strongly affirmed the teacher’s presence to the television news outlet, insisting that she played the “safe house guard” in this role-playing teaching exercise.

Ericka Lasley, the mother of an eight-year-old girl who joined the game, was outraged when she learned of the episode when her daughter came home from school. Lasley’s daughter insisted that the teacher proposed the game based on a class lesson.

The daughter told Channel 2 that during the incident the teacher, “would sit on the bench, and the slave catchers would come up to the door and ask ‘did she have any slaves?’”

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Charvia Rivers, mother of two other children who played, said they recounted a similar story. Her son Kaya Toney said the teacher specifically described the scenario, “as a game where slave catchers catch slaves.” Daughter Raven Tony stated that in the role of safe house guard, the teacher told her and the other students playing slaves when to run.

Rivers said she “was shocked” upon hearing the news, and called the game, “demeaning, dehumanizing and hurtful.” Both mothers told Channel 2 they found the slavery-themed game “inappropriate and insensitive.”

The teacher’s involvement was disputed in a statement released by the school district, which maintains that she was not involved. Gwinnett County education authorities assert that, “the activity was student initiated and that allegations regarding the teacher’s involvement were unfounded.”

The name of the teacher has been withheld.

A spokesman has said school leadership is willing to meet with parents to explain the incident. Diversity training has also been planned for Camp Creek Elementary School staff in response to parents’ outrage.

Earlier this month, another Atlanta area school inspired community ire by using slavery as a theme in math lessons for third grade students in Norcross. The teacher who wrote the questions resigned after public protests.

A similar controversy occurred a few days later near Detroit when “sixth grade students at Strong Middle School [were asked] to pretend that they were slaves as apart of a black history lesson,” according to a Grio report.

Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb