"Slave Day" at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, which was scheduled for today by student leaders in an effort to raise school spirit, was canceled earlier this week after black students protested that the idea was demeaning.
This is "School Spirit Week" at Springbrook, five days set aside by student leaders for schoolwide participation in various dress and activity themes.
"Slave Day" would have involved girls carrying books for boys in the morning and boys performing the same task for girls in the afternoon.
But the idea, "planned very innocently," according to student leader Ruth Kelman, prompted complaints from black students that "Slave Day" might make light of a tragic period in American history.
It also produced an inquiry from county school human relations officials, who six years ago outlawed "slave days" after parents of black students at Magruder High School protested in a similar controversy.
"We don't want to offend anybody," Kelman said. "We only wanted to get people more involved in school activities. There's no real sense of community here."
Springbrook's "School Spirit Week" has consisted of "No Jeans Day" Monday, "Red, White and Blue Day," Tuesday, "1950s Day" Wednesday, and "School Color Day," yesterday. Today will be "hat and Button Day" instead of "Slave Day."
"People could get the wrong idea over something like that," said Hampton McKenney, a black 11th grader. "Slavery isn't too funny."
Associate School Superintendent Harry Pitt said slave days were outlawed "becaause of the basic idea of human bondage."
"It kind of trivializes the concept and reinforces negative feelings," he said.
Springbrook Principal Thomas P. Marshall said the brief controversy represented a meeting of two different school eras.
"In the early 70s students became less involved in school activities and more sensitive to general political issues," he said. "Now students seem to want more school spirit. Stage bands are playing more seing music instead or rock, and there's more cheerleading and pride."