ROCK HILL, S.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - Rock Hill Schools has announced that they are making changes to a school field trip that some parents say was inappropriate and insensitive.
In February, FOX 46 reported on a field trip fifth grade students took to the Carroll School where they were instructed to pick cotton and sing what some believe sounded like a 'slave song.'
Cell phone video taken by a teacher and sent to parents shows the kids from Ebenezer Avenue Elementary in Rock Hill, picking cotton. Another video shows kids hurrying to fill their sacks. In each video, the kids are being instructed to sing: "I like it when you fill the sack. I like it when you don't talk back. Make money for me."
Wali Cathcart, an instructor at the Carroll School says the premise of the trip was for students to learn about the Great Depression, not slavery, and in a statement, Rock Hill Schools says the song was written by the instructor and based on his life experiences during the Great Depression Era.
"This program is not about that [slavery]," he said. "This program here is centered around the Great Depression of the 1930s, so slavery is not the predominant issue."
The trip will be changed, however, and students will no longer be asked to participate in those particular activities.
In light of recent concerns regarding parts of the Carroll School field experience, Rock Hill Schools has made some changes to the program that will go into effect immediately. Students will no longer participate in picking cotton as part of the experience. Additionally, the song that was written and sung by an instructor based on his life experiences as an African American during the Great Depression era will no longer be performed.
Parents, lawmakers and members of the Rock Hill community were shocked by the video, saying it the trip made light of slavery.
"Something has gone terribly wrong when slavery is treated as a 'game,' when children leave a field trip with the impression that a mockery can be made of their ancestors' oppression," South Carolina representative John King said. "When we portray a sugar-coated version of history, one of happily picking cotton and singing songs, then we miss an opportunity to teach the truth."
York County Councilman William "Bump" Roddey told FOX that aspect of the field trip came off "as offensive to the community" and should change.
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"When something is offensive to the community, than I think that should be considered," said Rock Hill NAACP chapter president Dorene Boular. "They're not taught about the violence of slavery, the dehumanizing, what people suffered through."
The district said as before, a permission slip will be sent home regarding the trip, but next time it will "include more details regarding the activities," and parents will always have the choice to opt their child out of the field trip if they find any aspect of it objectionable.
Jessica Blanchard, who first brought her concerns to FOX 46, said she's happy with the end results, and feels like her voice was heard.
"Rock Hill Schools took my concerns seriously and made the necessary changes to to better the program...We were able to keep the Carroll School and make changes to the curriculum so that the children are understanding what they are being taught! FOX  News I am forever grateful for your help in getting my voice heard!"
You can read the full statement from Rock Hill Schools below:
Dear Rock Hill Schools Parents,
The Carroll School field trip is a unique learning opportunity for all Rock Hill Schools 5th grade students scheduled throughout their school year. For the past fifteen years students have been visiting the Carroll School as part of studying the Great Depression era in the South Carolina school curriculum. Rock Hill Schools encourages open dialogue and communication between parents, school staff, the district office and the Rock Hill community.
In light of recent concerns regarding parts of the Carroll School field experience, Rock Hill Schools has made some changes to the program that will go into effect immediately. Students will no longer participate in picking cotton as part of the experience. Additionally, the song that was written and sung by an instructor based on his life experiences as an African American during the Great Depression era will no longer be performed. Although the previous permission form provided a description of the activities in which students would participate, the form has been revised to include more details regarding the activities. As was previously the case, any parents that object to their child’s participation in the Carroll School experience can opt out of the trip or any aspect of the trip that they find objectionable.
The District regrets that what was intended to be an educational opportunity where Carroll School alumni could share some of their life experiences with elementary students has caused other members of our community to feel offended or hurt.
The District is continuing to evaluate this matter and has sought, and will continue to seek, the input of our stakeholders, as we look for ways to honor the history of the Carroll School and its former students in ways that appropriately honor the legacy of this important part of our community and history.
Rock Hill Schools