Rock Hill Schools announce changes to controversial field trip

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. 

    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 [46] News I am forever grateful for your help in getting my voice heard!" 

    You can read the full statement from Rock Hill Schools below: