Students experience two days of discrimination after one day off - KOAM TV 7

Students experience two days of discrimination after one day off from school


Some middle school students in Baxter Springs have just wrapped up a week that started with a day off from school, because of Martin Luther King, Junior Day.  Many of us have read about King, Junior and the type of discrimination he protested.  But would being discriminated against make you appreciate even more the types of people who stand up for what's right?

Lillian Bird could only use two of four drinking water fountains.

"I was kind of thinking that they had certain water fountains that we couldn't use," says Bird.

Jermaine Brown could only use one of two sinks to wash his hands.

"My ancestors were black, and they were treated the same way," says Brown.

Addison Casada had to sit at the back of classrooms.

"I mean, you had to sit on the floor.  Everybody else got a desk, and you didn't.  There were plenty of extra chairs, and you didn't get one," says Casada.

It was all part of a social experiment that started on Tuesday, the day after a no-school holiday.

"And we wanted our kids to realize why we were off Monday," says Principal Robert Womack.

Central Elementary's Womack didn't tell students or parents about this experiment ahead of time.  Some sixth grade students on Tuesday were "red"---the right color---while other students were "blue"---the wrong color---and segregated from the rest.  Each group of students traded colors on Wednesday.

"I've always told my kids, they're not any better than anyone else, whether you're black, you're white, Mexican," says Tonya Hopkins.

Some parents say their kids came home thinking discrimination is OK.

"I truly think that they were taught that it doesn't matter, you don't have to have respect," says Hopkins.

But other kids took away a different interpretation.

"My uncle is like, they shouldn't be talking about segregation by being segregated.  I agreed, but didn't agree, kind of," says Bird.  "Because we should be taught about this in different ways than just talking about it with teachers.  We should be able to do something with it."

There was one more aspect to this experiment, though.

"Students didn't feel comfortable.  They wanted to stand up for the unfavorable color," says Womack.

Principal Womack says the students wanted to help each other, even though, for all they knew, they would be breaking school rules.

"When you see how it felt to not have those things, it's really upsetting," says Casada.

Lesson learned and class dismissed, say school staff.

The principal says he didn't tell parents or kids about this experiment ahead of time because he wanted the experiment to feel as real as possible, and for kids to have a genuine talk with their parents afterward.  The principal says he'll probably give advance notice next year, if this experiment is done again.


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