The educator, who has been placed on administrative leave, allegedly told his class of mostly black students to pick seeds out of cotton and put on shackles during social studies lessons about slavery, the students’ parents said. According to the parents, the social studies teacher reportedly allowed white students in the class to throw their cotton away and refuse to take part in the activity. The white school teacher claims in his lawsuit that he made it clear that he was not requiring any students to touch the cotton and remove the seeds. It was voluntary, according to the lawsuit.
The teacher at the School of the Arts in NY, Patrick Raush, filed a lawsuit on Friday, June 17, against two parents, not-for-profit social justice group SR Inc. and executive director Johnson. According to the lawsuit, the white school teacher claims that he reportedly brought a bag of unprocessed cotton into a 7th grade social studies classroom in April to demonstrate how difficult it was to pick cotton seeds out by hand, AP reports. The social studies teacher claims in his lawsuit that he made it clear that he was not requiring any students to touch the cotton and remove the seeds. It was voluntary, the lawsuit states.
According to the social studies teacher, two parents of students in the class reportedly began a social media campaign against him by posting false statements, including an allegation that he forced Black students to handle the cotton while White students could return to their laptops. In the lawsuit, the educator also claims that it’s not true that he made a student put on handcuffs and that he referred to himself as “Massah.” The social justice group reportedly hosted a meeting at which false allegations against the educator continued to be made, the lawsuit states.
“Raush made it clear that he was not requiring the students to touch the cotton and remove the seeds, and that it was completely voluntary for them to do so. The students — both black and white — were eager to touch the cotton and try to remove the seeds from the cotton, and most chose to do so. Raush was careful to explain to the students that he understood that some people may not be comfortable touching the cotton or picking the seeds out because such work is historically associated with slavery, that he in no way was trying to make them feel like slaves, and that participation was entirely voluntary,” the lawsuit states.
Executive director Johnson released the following statement: “While I have been advised to issue no comment at this time, my heart certainly aches for the children impacted by what they perceive to be flagrant acts of racism and hateful manipulation.”
According to Post, the alleged incident came to light after a parent posted on social media that her daughter was confronted with the cotton-picking lesson Tuesday. The mother reportedly told NYP: “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 student’s mother also posted about the incident on her social media account and included a photo of the cotton the girl took home from school. According to KSL-TV, the teacher allegedly let white children refuse to take part in the cotton-picking while not letting black students opt out. According to the student’s parents, on another occasion, the white school teacher brought in handcuffs and shackles. When one of the students balked at putting them on, the teacher allegedly threatened to send her to the principal’s office or the school counselor.