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Mother outrage after Miami preschool reportedly painted children in blackface

CBS News Live
CBS News Miami Live

MIAMI - A mother in Miami says she was shocked and outraged after the staff at her children's daycare shared photos with parents of students in blackface as part of Black History Month.

"You're a certified, established institution, you should know better. I mean, ignorance on -- about racism in 2023 is no longer ignorant, in my opinion," Courtney Politis, whose 1-year-old daughter attended Studio Kids Little River at the time, told CNN.

The photos were posted by a teacher on the school's messaging app on February 3 along with a message that read "Black history month," according to screenshots shared with CNN.

Politis said the parent of one of the toddlers shown in the photos with what appears to be dark paint covering their face called her that day and shared the screenshots with her, saying it was "sickening." That parent declined CNN's request for an interview.

While her children are not part of the same classroom, Politis said she was "flabbergasted" and reached out to the daycare's owner to say the incident was racist. Politis said she was asked to explain what was considered racist.

Patricia Vitale, the preschool's owner and director, declined to comment on the incident. In a message sent to all school parents and obtained by CNN, Vitale said the school received a comment from a parent about an activity done for Black History Month in one classroom and apologized.

"We have not intended to offend anyone, and we're very sorry about any inconvenience," her message said.

Three days later, Vitale sent another message to parents noting that her staff would receive additional training in response to the incident.

"We wanted to let all the parents know that we met on Friday afternoon with all the teachers and staff. We went over several ethical and multicultural education points. I will teach the team a class covering all the necessary topics regarding US history and multicultural education ... you may rest assured this will never happen again," the message read.

Politis said she was disappointed and decided to pull her two children out of two separate branches of Studio Kids. Her family has submitted emergency applications at other institutions, she told CNN.

"The bottom line is we can't trust them with our children all apologies aside," Politis said. "I thought we would have more time before these sorts of things or racism or microaggressions would have to be experienced by our children. So the fact that you can't, I feel like I can't protect my children from what's happening is probably the most disappointing and upsetting of all of this."

Blackface invokes a racist and painful history in the United States. Its origins date back to the minstrel shows of the mid-19th century, when White performers darkened their skin with polish and burned cork, and mimicked caricatures of enslaved Africans on Southern plantations. Black people were depicted as lazy, ignorant, cowardly or hypersexual, according to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).

"By distorting the features and culture of African Americans -- including their looks, language, dance, deportment and character -- white Americans were able to codify whiteness across class and geopolitical lines as its antithesis," the museum said.

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