A Spokane, Washington, mother is furious after she claims her twin daughters were asked to clean cotton for a classroom assignment. When she took the issue to the school, she says their suggestion was to remove the girls from the classroom. Now the mother wants the school administrator removed from the school, KXLY reported.
Black twin sisters Emzayia and Zyeshauwne Feazell told the outlet that on May 3, their social studies teacher at Sacajawea Middle School told students that they would be doing a “fun activity.” Shortly after, the teacher brought out a box of raw cotton and told the class they had to clean it as part of an assignment to see who could complete the task the quickest.
The 14-year-olds told reporters that they were “hurt.” Emazayia expressed “shock” over the idea that “a teacher would bring a box of cotton into a class and tell them to pick it clean so she could teach us how slaves were back then.” They also revealed that they were the only Black students in the class at the time and were left confused. The girls immediately told their mother, Brandi Feazell who says she was “floored” by what her daughters told her.
“For you to pass out cotton and to my children [and tell them] that essentially, they’re going to pick the cotton clean and it’s a race of who can get it clean first, that was extremely bothersome to me and my children,” Feazell explained. “Under no circumstance … do they need to be taught what it’s like to be a slave or what it’s like to be Black.”
When the mother questioned the school about the incident. She claims the principal assistant, Taylor Skidmore, stood by the teacher’s action and later suggested that the two teenagers be “segregated” from the rest of the class altogether. The response frustrated Feazell even more, who revealed the teacher is still working at the school following the incident. “My kids are being punished when I’m told that the best thing they could do for my kids at that point was to segregate them into a room by themselves away from the white teacher,” she added.
In an initial statement to 4 News Now, Spokane Public Schools revealed that they were conducting their own investigation using a third-party investigator. They explained they would share the details of their findings once the investigation was completed.
In a later statement, they claimed that “the students were learning about the industrial revolution and the Cotton Gin was discussed.” They added, “We take all complaints very seriously and are committed to investigating them fully. There are conflicting reports to this incident. Once the third party investigation is completed, we look forward to coming back to share the outcomes.”
The invention of the cotton gin in the late 18th century dramatically expanded the South’s cotton economy and the demand for slave labor. The machine cleans seeds from raw cotton far more efficiently and quickly than can be done by hand, and its productivity boost helped large-scale cotton agriculture take off in the South’s Cotton Belt.
KXLY reported that Feazell says the school district has since apologized and offered to put the students on a “safety plan.” Still, Feazell demands a public apology and disciplinary action taken towards the social studies teacher and all administrators who were aware but failed to take action. The mother is also asking that anti-racism training be provided to staff across the district. “They need some serious education for the teachers to understand how to deliver these educational tools to the children in a manner that is respectful,” she said.