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Parents Angered By Segregation Experiment At Elementary School


Children at a local elementary school segregated by the color of their hair. The children in one group told they’re not as smart as the others. It was supposed to be a lesson on racism, but some parents are furious neither they, nor their kids, were told about it ahead of time.

The parents we spoke to say they want their children to learn about racism and civil rights but feel Northside ISD went too far with the segregation experiment and by making children watch a documentary it admits was not age appropriate.

Mike and Brandi Lininger say their ten-year-old daughter was confused and hurt by a classroom experiment in January at Leon Springs Elementary. Students were separated according to hair color, with one group receiving preferential treatment.

“All of the dark-haired kids, the brown- and black-haired kids, were treated as the privileged ones and the blonde haired and the redhead kids were the ones treated not so nicely,” said Brandi Lininger.

The Lininger’s say teachers told students children in the fair-haired group were not as intelligent. That group was purposely given a game with pieces missing so they could not play. Later they were made to clean up after the other children.

“She was hurt, her friends, and she named to the principal and to district officials, names of her friends that were crying,” Brandi Lininger said.

Fifth graders were also shown a Spike Lee documentary called “4 Little Girls” about the 1963 bombing of an Alabama church. The film includes graphic autopsy photos of the girls’ bodies.

The teacher says she fast-forwarded past those parts, but the Lininger’s say the children in their daughter’s class did see the photos.

“The things that she said that she skipped over, my daughter was able to describe to us to a ‘T.’ So that night our daughter was unable to go to sleep in our own room, she was scared,” Mike Lininger said.

Northside ISD declined News 4 San Antonio’s request for an interview but said in a statement: “The activity and video in question were part of a larger fifth-grade project-based lesson around the inequity of segregation . . . While the campus did receive positive feedback from several parents . . . District and campus administration recognize the parent’s concerns and agree that the activity and video are not age-appropriate and will not be used again.”

The Lininger’s say the main issue for them is transparency.

“They send us notes and newsletters about everything else. Your child is going to see The Polar Express and it’s pajama day on Friday before winter break, and we get no notice that they’re going to do a social experiment on segregation,” Brandi Lininger said.

News 4 spoke to another Leon Springs parent who confirmed the Lininger’s story but did not want to be identified.

The couple says they contacted us because Northside officials have refused to notify parents about the experiment, and some may still be unaware it took place.

The Long History of this Experiment

The segregation experiment at Leon Springs Elementary appears to have been patterned after a famous exercise devised by a teacher named Jane Elliott back in the 1970’s. Elliott has since become an internationally known diversity trainer and lecturer. According to her website, Elliott’s original exercise labeled students as inferior or superior based solely on the color of their eyes and exposed them to the experience of being a minority. Over the years other teachers have copied the experiment, sometimes using hair color as the distinguishing factor.

Authored by Jaie Avila via News 4 San Antonio 

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