A Massachusetts Montessori school apologized and fired a teacher for instructing young children to make and wear Blackface masks as a Black History Month project.
The incident, which happened in a classroom with toddlers, took place last Tuesday at IC Kids in Newton. When one mother, Nadirah Pierce, picked up her children and learned what had happened, she complained and pulled them out of the school.
"This is unacceptable and don't really understand the concept of this project," Pierce told NBC10 Boston.
IC Kids apologized about the incident in a Facebook post, which drew criticism, then posted a statement on a window at the facility. The statement said the school's day care had closed over "safety concerns," explaining that "hearing of protests happening at the center will put the children and staff at risk."
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"To celebrate 'black history month', a teacher in toddler classroom [sic] at ICKids planned and carried out an activity that involved black masks 'blackface.' [sic] One of the parents brought it to our attention and was offended; The teacher apologized to the parent," the statement read.
The statement also addressed the earlier apology on Facebook and said the teacher responsible had been "released from her employment."
"While wording of Facebook apology was not the best statement, we were trying to send a message to say that research for toddler curriculum was not executed or completed in the manner that It [sic] should have been, so we apologize to every and anyone this may have offended," the statement said.
The school's Facebook account appears to have since been deactivated. School officials did not speak with NBC10 Boston on camera, but the mother who pulled her child from school criticized the school's statement.
"The apology received was empty and then to go onto Facebook and see that apology was disheartening. I hope this is a lesson to possibly really prepare to do projects on cultures before doing them to avoid a hurtful gesture to a group of people," Pierce said. "Even if they weren't trying to offend, they have."
“Having children participate in an activity in which they draw Black faces is shameful,” said Professor Johnnie Hamilton-Mason, who teaches dynamics of racism at Simmons University
She said Black History Month should be about celebrating contributions to society, not reinforcing stereotypes.
"It makes fun of them, they’re not really human, they’re human, but they’re less than human," she said.
Darnell Williams, former CEO of The Urban League of Eastern Mass, says the classroom teacher responsible for the lesson–who’s now been fired–needed to do basic research.
"They should have called somebody that they knew of African American descent and say what do you think about if I were to do this,' said Williams. "They would have shut it down."
NBC10 Boston did not witness any demonstrations at the facility on Monday.