Underground Railroad ‘Slave and Master’ Game Causes Controversy

Underground Railroad ‘Slave and Master’ Game Causes Controversy


By Alexa Green

A Bear Road Elementary School mother says her daughter is afraid to go back to school after she participated in a controversial game in gym class. Alexa Green explains, school officials say the purpose of the game was teach students about an important topic. 

NORTH SYRACUSE, N.Y. — It was Friday when Bear Road Elementary School parent Talisha Fernandez first learned about a game her third-grade daughter played in gym class.

“She said, ‘We played a slave master, slave catching type of game,'” Fernandez said. “I had to sit down for a moment. I said, ‘Where did you play this game? At recess?’ No in gym.”

Fernandez’s daughter told her the goal of the game was not to be caught by the slave master, played the gym teacher. If you were, caught you had to sit in the middle of the gym.

Fernandez says she was shocked to learn the game was supposed to teach students about the Underground Railroad.

“I wanted to know what was the historical content to this particular so called game. Because to me it’s not a game. When you think back to people being hung and running away from the slave master, it wasn’t game. This was real,” she said.

On Wednesday, North Syracuse School District Superintendent Annette Speach sent a letter to parents saying the activity was intended to provide students with a “…creative and active learning exercise about an important historical topic.”

After reviewing the situation, she said she determined the activity was inappropriate and insensitive, and it has been discontinued. But, Fernandez didn’t get that letter since her daughter is not in school and adds she hasn’t heard from school officials since Friday.

“I would have thought someone would have called and said we’re just expressing our concern and just want to make sure the child is OK. But we didn’t get that,” she said.

Fernandez has two daughters who go to Bear Road and neither have been back to school since the game. She is also looking into various schooling options.

Requests for comment from the school’s principal were not immediately returned.