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Teacher under fire for using Black students during lesson on slavery

New York

Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 2/2/2018, 11:38 a.m.
A teacher at a school in the Bronx is under fire after using her Black students to...

A teacher at a school in the Bronx is under fire after using her Black students to illustrate a lesson on slavery in her classroom. According to news sources, Middle School 118 teacher Patricia Cummings “traumatized” children in her social studies class when she singled out Black kids and had them lies on the floor during a lesson on U.S. slavery. And what she did next is even more horrifying – she allegedly stepped on their back to demonstrate what slavery was like. The students’ story of the traumatizing lesson was backed up by a staffer at the school. And according to witnesses, the teacher, who is white, did the demonstration in multiple classes. Students said they were horrified by the incidents. “It was a lesson about slavery and the Triangle Trade,” said one of Cummings' students, who asked to remain anonymous, reports the New York Daily News. “She picked three of the Black kids,” the boy said, and instructed them to get on the floor in front of the class. “She said ‘You see how it was to be a slave?’ She said ‘How does it feel?’” When a girl on the floor made an uncomfortable joke and said she felt fine, Cummings stepped on her back, the student said. “She put her foot on her back and said '’How does it feel?’” the student said. “’See how it feels to be a slave?’” Kids and a staffer said Cummings was removed from her post for a couple of days following the incident but then returned to class and was in school Thursday. However, the $68,934-a-year teacher was reassigned later Thursday after the Daily News contacted the city Education Department about her slavery lesson. Education Department spokesman Douglas Cohen said she is not working around kids anymore. “Ms. Cummings is being reassigned away from students pending the outcome of the investigation,” Cohen said. “We are providing additional support and guidance to the school.” MS 118 principal Giulia Cox declined to comment on Cummings’ actions. Cummings students said the lesson followed a showing of a video of slaves being beaten, tortured and thrown over the side of a ship. Cummings has worked in city schools since 2016 and is also the MS 188 cheerleading coach, according to her LinkedIn profile. She refused to discuss her slavery lessons when a reporter approached her after school on Thursday.