Barrington school district apologizes after mock slave auction
Barrington Unit District 220 officials are apologizing for a skit depicting a slave auction that students performed Friday at the opening of the Illinois Junior Classical League Convention in Itasca.
But parents of students from Kenwood Academy on the South Side of Chicago who were offended by the skit are disputing the timeliness and quality of the apology.
District 220 Assistant Superintendent Jeff Arnett said the Barrington High School students involved in the 45-second skit about Greek and Roman history immediately recognized they had unintentionally offended their audience with a presentation that hadn't been fully thought out.
"We understand what happened," Arnett said. "It was likely a misguided attempt by the students to inject some humor into their part of the program."
The weekend convention for students studying Latin was intended to evoke Roman times, but the wardrobe of the Barrington High students in the skit left that historical context unclear, according to video footage of the performance.
Danielle McDaniels, the mother of a Kenwood Academy student, said there was no acknowledgment of the 10 a.m. skit's distastefulness until parents were able to confront Barrington High and Illinois Junior Classical League officials after midnight.
"It was pretty bad," McDaniels said of the skit. "I promise you, if it wasn't a slave trade but the Holocaust, everyone would be up in arms. It would have blown up."
Kenwood students who were upset by the skit had to be counseled throughout the day, McDaniels said. The maturity of their public response was the one thing that kept the event from getting even more out of hand, she said.
"What would have made the news immediately is if our students would have responded in a disrespectful way," McDaniels said. "This isn't about us being hypersensitive. This is about them not being sorry."
McDaniels said she doesn't fault the Barrington students in the skit but the adult supervisors who were supposed to review and approve it. Any disciplinary action should fall squarely on them, she said.
"They need to do something about the cultural insensitivity on display this weekend," she said. "None of the adults are being held accountable or facing any consequences. They really can't make light of this. I don't think this is something that can be swept under the carpet."
Arnett said both students and adult representatives of District 220 were quick to recognize that an insensitive mistake had been made.
"The apologies began immediately thereafter and continued throughout the weekend," he said. "Unfortunately, it reflected on all the students who were there."
Barrington High School Latin Club sponsor Chris Condrad is seen on video apologizing at the conference on Saturday.
"There's no excuse for my students' actions, and my inaction," Condrad said at the conference.
A staff member had briefly reviewed the skit before the presentation and interpreted it in its intended context but now realizes a mistake was made, Arnett said. All are regarding the incident as a teachable moment.
The apologies continued Monday morning with a post on the district's Facebook page.
"The Barrington School District offers sincere apologies to those offended by a skit our high school Latin students conducted at the Illinois Junior Classical Convention in Itasca this weekend," the Facebook post reads. "Their depiction of slavery as it was practiced by ancient Greeks and Romans unintentionally but understandably evoked strong emotions among a diverse audience.
"We agree with the concern and are reviewing the incident with students and staff who were involved," the statement concludes.
Arnett said Barrington High School Principal Steve McWilliams has been attempting to reach out to the principal of Kenwood Academy, but as of Monday afternoon the two had not yet spoken.
Kenwood Academy referred questions Monday to Chicago Public Schools administration, which did not immediately return calls.
According to its website at iljcl.org, the Illinois Junior Classical League is designed to promote a more thorough knowledge of classical life, history and literature.