HAMDEN- A Hamden couple is looking for answers from the Board of Education after they said two students were cast as slaves in a school play.
Carmen and Joshua Parker are parents of a fifth-grade student and became outraged after they learned their 10-year-old biracial daughter was cast as a slave in a school play at West Woods Elementary.
“The scene starts with nameless slaves one and two getting pushed towards the ship by the slave owner and a child is acting as the slave owner,” Dr. Carmen Parker said.
The teacher involved in the incident was placed on a short leave of absence, although parents we spoke to don't agree that was the appropriate decision and would like to see an overall plan of action instead.
The couple came out to Tuesday night’s Hamden Board of Education meeting hoping to get answers after they said they alerted the school’s principal, but all they got was a four-minute phone call.
“The teacher felt it was appropriate to teach about colonialism by utilizing a play that had characters of enslaved Africans one and two,” Parker said. “That’s not how you teach your children about civil rights.”
“I was trying to make sense of the whipping of the children, the children were going to be whipping the slaves ,” Joshua Parker said.
According to Parker both slave roles were cast as students of color, but she said her issue isn’t with the play. She said there is a bigger problem within the Hamden school district itself when dealing with the issue of racism and would like to see the board require diversity training for educators.
Mayor Curt Leng also attended the meeting after he heard about the incident and released the following statement:
“I attended tonight’s Board of Education Equity Committee meeting because I was concerned about the incident. Being a diverse and inclusive community is one of Hamden’s primary strengths, and when an issue arises that doesn’t fit this core principle of the school system and Town, I want to hear about it. I trust the Board of Education leadership, and especially this wonderfully proactive Equity Committee, to work with all involved to address the concerns swiftly and to ensure that we learn from this situation moving forward. I want to thank everyone who came out tonight and spoke their minds, shared their experiences and advice. I look forward to continued dialogue that will lead to positive change.”