A white New York City teacher has come under fire after singling out black students and telling them to lie on the floor during a lesson on American slavery.
The teacher, Patricia Cummings at Middle School 118 in the Bronx, reportedly, went so far as to step on the back of at least one of the students, allegedly to show her what slavery was like, after commenting on the lesson.
According to The New York Daily News, one of Cummings’ students described the lesson as follows:
“It was a lesson about slavery and the Triangle Trade…She said, ‘You see how it was to be a slave?’ She said, ‘How does it feel?’”
Explaining that three black students in the class were told to lie on the floor, one female student responded by saying that she felt “fine.” The student added:
“She put her foot on her back and said ‘How does it feel? See how it feels to be a slave?’”
Another student explained that the lesson continued with a video in which slaves were beaten, tortured and thrown off of ships. The student added that Cummings measured “the length and width [of the students on the floor] to show how little space slaves had in the ship. It was strange.”
The school’s student body is 81% black and Hispanic, with 3% white.
What happens now?
Cummings was reportedly removed from her post after the incident came to light, but returned to class on Thursday. However, after the Education Department was contacted by reporters regarding the history lesson, she was assigned to work that kept her away from children. An investigation concerning Cummings is believed to be ongoing.
Cummings refused to discuss the lesson with a reporter after returning to the school on Thursday, giving the following statement:
“Excuse me, I’m not talking to anyone, no.”
Toya Holness, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, gave the following statement:
“While the investigation has not been completed, these are deeply disturbing allegations, and the alleged behavior has no place in our schools or in society.”
The school’s principal, Giulia Cox, declined to comment on the investigation.