A former New York City teacher accused of forcing students to lie on the floor while she stepped on their backs as part of a lesson on slavery is heading to court, contending she was wrongfully terminated and intends to sue the city for upwards of $1 billion.
Patricia Cummings, 37, was canned in October after complaints over her far-out teaching methods, which Black students said left them feeling humiliated and singled out. At a press conference Thursday, Cummings insisted the class lesson at MS 118 in the Bronx was all in good faith.
However, blowback from the exercise has left her virtually unemployable.
“I have no career at this point,” Cummings told reporters, describing how the allegations have impacted her life.
As reported by the New York Post, the former teacher filed a $120 million lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education and several other city agencies, including Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s office. Her lawyer, Thomas Liotta, said they’re also building a $1 billion class-action suit with other teachers who say they’ve been discriminated against.
At the news conference, Liotta argued the only reason Cummings’ lesson drew backlash is because she’s white.
“Ms. Cummings is a dedicated and competent teacher, who should’ve never been subjected to these false accusations, which have damaged her career and her reputation,” Liotta said. “This is a case of blatant reverse discrimination.
“How does the City of New York expect to attract effective teachers when people like Patricia Cummings have to go through this kind of abuse?” he added. “It’s outrageous.”
Cummings said allegations she stepped on students backs are false, but acknowledged that she had them sit very close together to demonstrate how enslaved Blacks were packed into slave ships. At the time, the students said Cummings picked “three of the Black kids,” then told them to lie down at the front of the classroom.
That’s when she allegedly pressed her foot into one of the student’s backs and said, “How does it feel? How does it feel to be a slave?”
Cummings said only one student and a parent were unhappy about the lesson and that testimony from a Black teacher, who witnessed the incident, would help clear her name. The teacher in question, who is unnamed, said he found the lesson effective and would have let his own children participate, the New York Post reported.
“Anyone who has met me knows I don’t have that bone in my body,” Cummings said. “I was brought up — you treat everybody the way you want to be treated.”
The teacher was initially reassigned to another class before the Education Department gave her the boot following an investigation.
Cummings insists her termination was the result of discrimination, but a DOE spokesman said her firing was “based on a thorough investigation and a review of her performance as an educator.”
The agency said it will review her complaint.
Watch more in the clip below.