The white teacher, who has been placed on leave, told his class of mostly black students to pick seeds out of cotton and put on shackles during social studies lessons about slavery. The social studies teacher reportedly allowed White students in the class to throw their cotton away and refuse to take part in the activity. This incident came to light after a parent posted on social media that her daughter was confronted with the cotton-picking lesson Tuesday. Parents are now calling for the teacher’s firing and for his teaching license to be revoked.
This incident reportedly occurred during lessons on slavery in a seventh-grade social studies class at the School of the Arts in New York.
The teacher, Patrick Rausch, has been put on leave while the school district investigates the allegations.
According to New York Post, this incident came to light after a parent posted on social media that her daughter was confronted with the cotton-picking lesson Tuesday.
A parent, Precious Tross, reportedly said: “He made a mockery out of slavery. I don’t have a problem with you teaching our kids about slavery and what our ancestors went through and how they had to pick cotton. Our teachers back in the day told us that, but they don’t bring in cotton and make you pick cotton seeds out of cotton.”
The mother posted about the incident on Facebook and included a photo of the cotton the girl took home from school.
During an interview with WXXI-AM, the teachers union President Adam Urbanski said that if someone departs from what they should be doing, they should suffer the consequences, but due process has to be allowed first.
According to reports, the teacher reportedly let white children refuse to take part in the cotton-picking while not letting black students opt out.
The teacher also reportedly threatened to send student Ja’Nasia Brown to the principal’s office or the school counselor if she refused to put on the restraining devices.
Precious’ daughter, Ja’Nasia Brown, reportedly said: “I immediately was like, “Oh, I’m not doing that.’ And then he was like, “Do it. It’s for a good grade.”‘
Student Jahmiere O’Neal reportedly told WXXI News: “He gave the whole class cotton and we were made to pick out the cotton seeds. He said, ‘Better clean it right, boy.’”
Jahmiere’s mother, Vialma Ramos-O’Neal, said that the teacher would also use slurs when mentioning her son’s developmental disability.
Ramos-O’Neal reportedly said: “I have fought all along for Jahmiere to be included in everything his peers are, and this man degraded him, insulted him and made him not want to be black. I was in shock.”
When the young students were not able to unshackle themselves, the teacher reportedly told them: “It’s OK; your ancestors couldn’t either.”
“It made me feel bad to be a black person,” student Jahmiere O’Neal said.
According to Daily Mail, the teacher reportedly called himself ‘massah’ – the word for ‘master’ used in representation of Southern black speech, especially in the era of slavery and allowed white students in the classes to stop when they complained, but not Black students.
Parents are now calling for the teacher’s firing and for his teaching license to be revoked.
Kelly Nicastro, the school principal, released a statement and said that school leaders take these allegations very seriously and a statement from the school board called them extremely troubling.
The school board president, Cynthia Elliott, reportedly said: “In a district of Black and brown students, it is important to be sensitive of the historical framework by which our students are engaging and learning.”
Per report, about half the School of the Arts’ students are Black. The school district said that the teacher, who they did not name, has been put on leave and an investigation is underway.