Northern Virginia

‘Privilege Bingo' in Fairfax Co. Class Meets Controversy for Including Being a Military Kid

"I have always viewed being a military child as being a more difficult thing," said Army veteran Rebecca Brinker

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A controversial assignment in a Fairfax County, Virginia, public school class asked students to play "privilege bingo" — but one of the criteria for privilege was being from a military family, something that some people found upsetting.

The assignment in a high school English class came with boxes for characteristics such as being white, Christian, male and able-bodied to identify whether the taker was considered privileged. There was also a box for being a military kid.

One local veteran tells us she was shocked to see it.

"I have always viewed being a military child as being a more difficult thing," said Army veteran Rebecca Brinker. "The kids definitely are affected by the absence of their parents."

Brinker and her husband both served in the Army. She says her husband was often deployed and even missed their son’s birth. That son just graduated from Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).

"The fact that they want military kids to feel embarrassed that they’re military kids, that they’re privileged, or that it’s something they shouldn’t want to be or should be ashamed of, it’s very upsetting to me," Brinker said.

The bingo card has drawn widespread attention on social media, including in a tweet by Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity.

"I was not very happy. The lesson is divisive, and it’s clearly offensive, especially to our military families," said Herrity (R), Fairfax County supervisor for the Springfield district.

FCPS tells News4 that they’ve since revised the activity and said, "We apologize for any offense it may have unintentionally caused. FCPS remains committed to equipping students with the skills to recognize multiple perspectives, analyze bias, and examine privilege as 21st century learners."

They also said, "FCPS recognizes and honors the experiences of all our families, including those in service to our country in the military."

One education expert told News4 that she’s led many lessons on privilege but has never seen "military kid" as a criterion.

"We know that when a parent is in the military, there’s a certain amount of danger. There’s a certain amount of stress that comes with it," Loyola University professor Kaye Wise Whitehead said.

She also said the format of a lesson is important.

"I believe that students should have discussions about privilege," Whitehead said. "I tend not to trivialize it as a game. I think these are very difficult questions."

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