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'Act like slaves' during history lesson, says teacher

FAMILY TIME: (from left to right) Tamika Derozen with sons Phillip, 11 and Tyler, 15

LATE LAST month an 11 year-old boy, Phillip, was subject to his history teacher's whims when he was asked to help illustrate a moment in Louisiana's history; which involved members of the class being cast as slaves in a 'dramatic sketch'.

Since the understandable confusion, upset and anger that ensued, the young man's mother Tamika Derozen has lead a campaign to express the indignation felt by herself and other parents. It is hoped that the parents and students will get an acceptable response from the teacher in question, who, at the time of writing, had simply said to the class that she apologised 'to those who were offended' and then proceeded to proclaim that it wouldn't have 'made sense' for white students to play slaves.

Speaking with The Voice, Derozen revealed that she and her two sons, Phillip and Tyler, 15, had moved to Staunton, Virginia from Baton Rouge Louisiana "to avoid the crime, as it increased following hurricane Katrina."

On racial disparities within Staunton, the mother said:

"When I arrived here, I noticed right away that the population of black Americans was much lower than that of white Americans.

"I noticed that as I visited local businesses - there are usually very few black employees (one in 10 in my estimation). The town only has approximately five black-owned businesses and there definitely is room for growth in this area, to promote cultural stimulation.

"Often, when an injustice occurs the local black community accept it and feel that there's no hope for change. The local residents think that's just the way things are and that we will never be heard."


UNBREAKABLE BOND: (from left to right) Phillip, 11 with mother Tamika Derozen

The story of Phillip and his classmates' ordeal was picked-up on televised news programmes as well as media in Britain.

"I've seen a difference since my coming forward to news media," says Derozen.

"I've received words of support through social media from both white and black residents here. I was fearful that my son would receive backlash from sharing his experience - so far that has not happened. He was afraid to return to school following the release of his account of events by the media. So far, he has not had any problems at school.

"There has been an announcement of an investigation conducted by the Schools Superintendent that is still pending, with the teacher involved out on leave. Still, there have not been any apologies offered to the students."

When asked what she would like to see happen in the future, Derozen detailed:

"As we go into the future I would like to see the teachers trained. Maybe the school should conduct a training day that would focus on racial sensitivity, covering the importance of treating each student fairly regardless of their differences. The training could also note that students and their peers will interact with eachother better if the teachers display a more positive outlook on minorities.

"I have, along with volunteers, began planning community events to bring our youth together to spread awareness and empower them to know they can succeed."

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