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School ends auction of senior that reminds some of slavery

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California high school abandoned an annual fundraising auction to buy a senior for a day after some students said the practice reminded them of slavery.

Lamari Johnson, an African-American senior at John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento, launched an online petition to end the practice, noting that February is Black History Month.

Students made jokes about the auction, saying things like, “‘I just bought two slaves,’ which is not OK,” she wrote, adding that her “ancestors fought for freedom, fought to not be enslaved, sold and separated from their family.”

The fundraising event, a common practice at American high schools, has been going on for more than a decade, with money going toward the senior ball, The Sacramento Bee reported Monday (http://bit.ly/2lY0s4w ).

Seniors volunteer to be purchased for $20, for example, to carry another student’s backpack all day or to recite a poem on command.

The school’s principal, David Van Natten, said he decided to end the tradition after hearing concerns from Johnson and others that the idea of “buying” a person, even for a fun fundraiser, creates a sense of entitlement and discomfort.

“The goal is a learning environment that is nurturing, safe and inclusive,” Van Natten said. “And as principal, the buck stops here. I did not feel like this event met those criteria and, hence, my decision it would not go on.”

Others say the practice is fun, harmless and entirely voluntary.

“Being bought doesn’t even mean anything and the whole thing is just for fun,” read an online petition calling for the fundraiser’s return.

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