MLK was the historical figure eight-year-old Sean King was assigned as part of a "wax museum day" project. He was to present himself to the class dressed as the civil rights leader.
But before he had a chance to enter the classroom, Sean's principal told him he had to take off the black face, allegedly because a faculty member expressed discomfort.
"As a parent I think it's pretty sad that you've got a principal and a faculty member that are acting the way they are when they should be setting an example for children," said Sean's mother Michelle King-Roca.
A spokeswoman for the school later said others had also complained about the face paint, which she claimed was in violation of the school's dress code.
"They thought it was inappropriate and it will be disrespectful to black people and I say it's not," Sean told NewsChannel 13. "I like black people. It's just a costume and I don't want to insult anybody."
At least one PTA member also felt the situation had been blown out of proportion. "I'm extremely disappointed," said Pam Page. "If my own son, who is blonde, was chosen to do Martin Luther King, Jr., I would have gotten him a black wig and painted his face too."
According to the district, Sean has not been suspended, and is welcome to return to the school, but his parents have yet to decide if he will.
Reached for comment, a King Center rep told KRDO he thought Sean was "a decent kid who wanted to honor Dr. King in some way," but feels kids today "need to know their history a little better," notably with respect to black face and minstrelsy.