A Bronx teacher is in hot water after reports she subjected Black students to an insensitive classroom demonstration as part of a history lesson on slavery.
Middle School 118 teacher Patricia Cummings, who is white, humiliated several African–American students by singling them out and instructing them to lie on the ground before stepping on them to portray how horrible slavery was, students and staffers told the New York Daily News.
Cummings allegedly pulled the stunt in several of her seventh–grade classes as part of a unit discussing the Middle Passage, the longest leg of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade where Africans were kidnapped and brought to America. Students and staff at the school, where the student body is majority Black and Latino, were shocked by the instructor’s offensive lesson.
The incident reportedly occurred just two weeks ago.
“… It was a lesson about slavery and the Triangle Trade,” one of Cummings’ students, who asked to remain anonymous, told the newspaper. “She picked three of the Black kids,” the child 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?’ ”
The student said Cummings proceeded to step on one of the student’s backs after they made a joke and said they felt fine being on the floor.
“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 said the lesson was followed by a video showing enslaved Blacks being beaten, tortured and thrown overboard.
The social studies teacher was removed from her post for a few days after the incident but was back at school on Thursday, the New York Daily News reported. She was re-assigned, however, after the newspaper complained to the city Education Department about the lesson.
Cummings, who has worked in city schools since 2016, refused to discuss her lesson with reporters Thursday.
“Excuse me, I’m not talking to anyone, no,” she said, when a Daily News reporter asked if she stepped on African-American students in her class.
This isn’t the first time a teacher’s poorly executed lesson on slavery has made headlines, however. In August, a Georgia teacher was reprimanded for a “demeaning” class game where the roll of a dice determined if students progressed further on the Underground Railroad or were caught and sent back to the plantation.