Photo: iStock

The mother of a student who attends an Arizona charter school alleges that a third-grade teacher had the class reenact an important moment in the history of Jim Crow because, of course, the only way kids can learn about racism is through lynch mob role-playing exercises.

“It is with a heavy heart that I have made the difficult decision in speaking out about what happened to my son yesterday at school,” began the Facebook post from Claudia Rodriguez, the mother of the child in the reported incident, adding:

“My son attends BASIS Phoenix Central. He is 9 years old in 3rd grade. Their current humanities curriculum consists of the Civil Rights Movement. His humanities teacher found it wise that in order for the kids to understand what black kids during those times experienced that she would have my child, who is black, walk through the classroom as she, another teacher, and the remaining 27 classmates yell, humiliate and berate him. The Head of School had the nerve to tell me that there was some educational value in this incident because it started conversations in the homes of the other kids, AT THE EXPENSE OF MY CHILD’S EMOTIONAL WELL BEING. I felt the need to speak up so that no other child ever has to feel what my son felt. This woman should not be teaching kids, she has no business in a classroom if she thinks it’s ok to do this to a child. I have made this post public, I ask that you share, what has been done to my child cannot be undone, but maybe we can prevent from happening to someone else. The picture below is a post from a concerned parent and how I found out about what happened to my child.”

According to ABC15, the students were reenacting the 1957 integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., when the Little Rock Nine broke Arkansas’ color barrier, leading to the end of school segregation in that state.

Rodriguez’s post is accompanied by a screenshot of a testimonial from another parent who backed up the version of the story, writing: “My child was instructed to yell at this singled-out child so that he would now [sic] what it felt like to not be wanted.” (It is unclear whether or not this is a quote from the lesson plan because I’m pretty sure that isn’t the main point that kids should take away from a lesson about segregation.)

Screenshot: Facebook (Claudia Rodriguez)

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“I am sorry that ... [the] lesson was offensive to some of you—we won’t repeat it,” said Rosalind Thompson, a black woman and head of BASIS Phoenix Charter school, who should know better. “But in today’s environment, I think it helped the children to ‘live’ that history for a brief moment and hopefully assure that they never have to live it in real life as I did.”

According to Arizona Central, Phil Handler, the spokesman for the charter school, says Rodriguez’s son volunteered to be the subject of the lesson, although neither he nor Thompson commented on whether or not the school typically allows nine-year-olds to approve their lesson plans.

The teacher insists that students were asked to volunteer for the exercise and that kids who participated in the racism reenactment were instructed not to use slurs or derogatory language. The school also says that they do this lesson every year and other students called it a “positive learning experience.” Of course, none of the other students who said this were black, nor were they the ones who were being screamed at in the fantasy white supremacy camp. But I guess their opinions matter.

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Rodriguez says she has filed a complaint with the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools against the school and the teacher (who is not certified). According to its website, the school educates approximately 895 students, 7.6 percent of whom are black.

They might want to lower that number to 894.