Elementary School Under Fire After Photo Surfaces of Black Girl Wearing Leashes

Kellee Michelle/Facebook

We have spoken in-depth about schools and teachers overstepping their bounds lately. While we have nothing but respect for those who choose to dedicate their lives to educating our children, we still expect a basic sense of decorum and common sense to guide the lessons our kids learn in school. Now, a teacher and her school are coming under fire after a photo depicting a racially charged history lesson went viral


On Wednesday, October 18, a disturbing photo surfaced of a teacher and three students dressed in period clothing. One of the children -- a little black girl -- can be seen kneeling on the ground while the other students hold what appear to be leashes connected to her body or clothing. 

Kelee Michelle/Facebook

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The photo was found to have been taken at Mitchell Elementary School in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and was quickly spread throughout numerous Facebook groups and pages by concerned parents and citizens who assumed that the photo depicted some sort of "slavery roleplay." 

The image sparked outrage from the majority of those who saw it.

Within hours, Mitchell Elementary School and the Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District were flooded with calls from people looking for answers and demanding that actions be taken against those responsible for creating the photo. The district claimed that the class had recently been involved in an "enrichment program" and that on Friday, October 13, instructors from the Plimoth Plantation taught a group of third-grade students a lesson that involved information on 17th century attire and lifestyle. The district argued that the "leashes" attached to the child in the photo were actually "tethering straps" used by parents of the time. 

Their official statement read: 

Late Wednesday evening a complaint was received regarding a picture that a teacher shared with the parents of her students regarding a recent enrichment program. Immediately this morning District and building administrators began an inquiry into the complaint.

On Friday, October 13, 2017 the [Plimoth] Plantation presented a lesson to third grade students. Through our investigation, it was explained by the Director of Education from [Plimoth] Plantation that a portion of the lesson focused on 17th century attire -- particularly the garments worn by parents, children, toddlers and infants. Specifically the garment worn by toddlers commonly used tethering straps to assist them when learning to walk.

We realize without this context added to the photo that was shared by the classroom teacher it could be perceived differently. Please note it was never the intent of the lesson to demean or degrade any one person or group. The Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District sincerely apologizes to the students, staff and community at large for this unfortunate incident.


Derek J. Swenson 
Superintendent of Schools

Even with its insistence that the entire situation had been taken and spread "without context," many remained completely unsatisfied with the district's meager apology. Critics charged that both the teacher and the school should have understood how disturbing the photo would have been to many people. 


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The child's mother reportedly is meeting with school officials sometime soon in attempts to find answers and a possible resolution. She did not immediately respond to CafeMom's request for comment. 

There have been numerous instances of educators "teaching" extremely questionable "lessons" involving real-life depictions of slavery with students of color this year. Whether or not you believe that this teacher had ill intentions or that the photo she snapped was taken out of context, it is entirely unacceptable. Any parents of any race would have grounds to be enraged at finding photos of their child being walked around on leashes at school. But more than that, we do not live in a world devoid of historical context, and that history is what makes this image even harder to bear. 

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