Rock Hill superintendent to give public apology over cotton-picking field trip

ROCK HILL, S.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) -- Rock Hill Schools' Superintendent Dr. Bill Cook will make a public apology after video of a field trip, first reported by FOX 46, showed fifth graders picking cotton, while singing what sounded like 'slave songs' to some parents, in the middle of Black History Month, according to the Rock Hill NAACP. 

"This gathering is to bring about resolution and reconciliation within our community," said Rock Hill NAACP president Dorene Boular. 

The day after the Rock Hill NAACP celebrated its 75th anniversary, members stood on the steps of a church, telling reporters their faith in Rock Hill Schools has been restored.

"Would like to thank and commend the Rock Hill School District," said Boular, "for quickly addressing concerns."

The concerns stemmed from a video, obtained by FOX 46, three weeks ago which received national attention. 

"I think it's making a mockery," said Jessica Blanchard, the mother who reported her concerns to the district and spoke exclusively with FOX 46 last month. "A mockery of slavery. A mockery of what our people went through." 

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At the time, district spokesman Mychal Frost defended the video calling it a lesson on the Great Depression, not slavery, which was never mentioned. Blanchard, and other parents, felt the horrific history of black slaves, forced to pick cotton, should have been included in the lesson.

Frost first blamed the mother for not reading the permission slip, which made no mention of singing, and tried to prevent FOX 46 from airing the report. He said it wasn't newsworthy and shut down an interview because he said a question about why slavery wasn't included in the lesson was "off-script."

Now, FOX 46 is getting results for parents who were offended. Under pressure, the district announced last week that the cotton picking and singing portion of the 15-year-old field trip to the Carroll School, a landmark school built by and for African Americans in 1929, will "immediately" end. 

"The exposure FOX 46 brought to this," said Dr. Norma Gray, with the Rock Hill NAACP, "broguht to light something that needed to be dealt with." 

The district will now include more detail in permission slips that are sent home to parents regarding future field trips and additional "sensitivity training" will be implemented. 

Dr. Cook, at the request of the Rock Hill NAACP, will make a public apology to the community. 

"This allows an opportunity for those individuals who do not have children in the school district to also hear the apology," said Boular. 

 In a text message, Blanchard thanked the NAACP for its support and the district for making changes.

"I am so happy with the end results! Rock Hill Schools took my concerns seriously and made the necessary changes to better the program!," she wrote. "I really appreciate the support from the community and the NAACP! The school issued an apology as well as implemented sensitivity training and we are grateful for that as well!"

"I [e]specially like to thank Dr. [John] Jones [Rock Hill Schools Chief Academic and Accountability Officer] for really listening to me and other parents! We were able to keep the Carroll School and make changes to the curriculum so that the children are understanding [of] what they are being taught! Fox News I am forever grateful for your help in getting my voice heard!"

Rock Hill Schools did not respond to a request for comment.

Public Apology 

Superintendent Dr. Bill Cook will give a public apology Thursday March 21 at 6:30 pm at the following location, according to the Rock Hill NAACP: 

Kenneth Monroe Transformation Center
745 Saluda St.
Rock Hill, S.C.

Anyone who was offended by the cotton picking and singing portion of the field trip is encouraged to attend.