A DC school is apologizing after fifth graders of color were asked to portray enslaved people
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A DC school is apologizing after fifth graders of color were asked to portray enslaved people

A DC school is apologizing after fifth graders of color were asked to portray enslaved people

By Melissa Darling

Contributing Writer for Telegraph Local | See LinkedIn


Washington D.C school,  Lafayette Elementary School, have found themselves apologizing for a wrong doing on behalf of an assignment gone wrong. The elementary school is apologizing for a lesson in which fifth grade students of color were asked to portray enslaved people. Carrie Broquard, the school’s principal, sent out a letter to families explaining that the lesson was a mistake. Broquard said that students “should not have been tasked with acting out or portraying different perspectives of enslavement and war.” She continued on to say “at Lafayette, we believe in the importance of teaching painful history with sensitivity and social awareness, unfortunately we fell short of those values in a recent 5th grade lesson.” The letter was sent out on December 23rd.

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This all began because the students were learning the unit on the Civil War and Reconstruction. Broquard mentioned this within her note and how the students started the unit by reading an article titled “A Nation Divided.” In order to further the understanding of the content, the teaching team thought it would be good to have the students engage in a dramatic reading, create a living picture or create a podcast in small groups. This is according to a separate letter addressed to families of fifth graders from the school’s fifth grade teaching team. Because of this, students began asking their peers to play roles that are “inappropriate and harmful,” including “a person of color drinking from a segregated water fountain and an enslaved person,” the team wrote within this letter. Distress from students soon followed. it was made apparent during classroom circles and small group discussions, Broquard said. Some students came forward saying how they were uncomfortable with the roles their peers had asked them to play, while others, she said, had been unsure how to respond or stand up for the peers who were made to feel uncomfortable.

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This lesson, for obvious reasons, will not continue being offered according to Broquard. “We deeply regret that we did not foresee this as a potential challenge in role playing so we could set appropriate parameters to protect students,” the fifth grade team said. District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) remarked that the lesson was inappropriate and that the school was responding to the situation. The DCPS also released a comment to CNN saying “The school recognized its mistakes, addressed the matter with families, and is actively reinforcing values of racial equity across the entire school community. We support Lafayette Elementary as it nurtures young scholars to be models of social awareness and responsibility.”
The school is continuing to respond to the issue in a number of ways. Broquard outlined a number of steps the school is taking in her letter. Broquard wrote that students who were directly affected have been meeting with the school’s social emotional learning team as well as members of the administration to “process and talk through” the incident. The staff will also be required to participate in a full day of training on equity and race in January, as well as having a plan to create a diversity and inclusion committee.

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