Mass. preschool closes after ‘offensive’ blackface classroom lesson

A Massachusetts preschool has shut down after staffers had toddlers paint “blackface” masks on paper plates as part of Black History Month.

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IC Kids Montessori in Newton said Tuesday that it was closing due to protests at the center that could “put the children at risk” amid outcry over students holding the plates up to their faces during a Feb. 8 lesson.

“One of the parents pointed out that the black mask/blackface is offensive,” the school said. “The teacher apologized to the parent.”

The school’s director was away on personal matters and addressed the incident after a concerned parent complained. The staffers who planned and carried out the lesson have since been fired, officials said.

The school apologized for the incident last week, but removed the post an hour later before deleting its Facebook account entirely, reported.

“To all who are offended, we sincerely apologize for what happened with one of our classroom activities: black face,” the post read. “Our intention was to celebrate Black History Month. Unfortunately we didn’t do enough research on black history and carried out a wrong activity. We are sorry and we mean it!”

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Tuesday’s statement acknowledged that the apology initially offered up by ICKids in Newton was “not the best” mea culpa possible.

The staffers who planned and carried out the lesson have since been fired.
Facebook / Ickids Newton

“We were trying to send a message to say that research for toddler curriculum was not executed or completed in the manner that it should have been, so we apologize to every and anyone this might have offended,” the preschool said.

If the preschool does reopen, all staffers will receive diversity training.

“We would also aim high for a more diverse staff with strong child care background knowledge and experience,” administrators said.

One mother picked up her children at the school last week and found out about the blackface lesson, NBC Boston reported.

“This is unacceptable and don’t really understand the concept of this project,” Nadirah Pierce told the station. “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.”

Bridget Ray-Canada, a founding member of the Newton Coalition of Black Residents, said the teacher’s lesson “degraded” the students.

“She hurt the black community,” Ray-Canada told CBS Boston. “For people to claim ignorance, I think it’s unacceptable in 2022.”

Bridget Ray-Canada
Bridget Ray-Canada was upset with the lesson plan.
CBS News Boston

The school, however, insisted it already had a diverse staff, including “African American, Spanish [and] Asian” employees while calling out the unnamed staffer behind the lesson.

“Said staff member did not execute curriculum in the manner trained to do so resulting in this negative impact and light of the daycare center,” the statement concluded.

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