Years after the abolition of slave trade, a white New York City teacher is under fire after she reportedly singled out black students and told them to lie on the floor during a lesson on U.S. slavery.
The teacher, identified as Patricia Cummings from Middle School 118 in the Bronx, then allegedly stepped on the back of at least one black student to show her what slavery felt like.
Cummings pulled the stunt during multiple seventh-grade social studies classes about two weeks ago, the New York Daily News reported.
“It was a lesson about slavery and the Triangle Trade,” the newspaper was told by one of Cummings’ students, who said the teacher instructed three black students to lay 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?’”
When one of the students said she felt fine, Cummings stepped on her.
“She put her foot on her back and said ‘How does it feel?’” the student said. “See how it feels to be a slave?”
Another student said the “lesson” followed a showing of a video of slaves being beaten, tortured and thrown over the side of a ship.
The student told the Daily News that Cummings measured “the length and width [of the students on the floor] to show how little space slaves had in the ship. It was strange.”
Cummings, who has worked in city schools since 2016, was reportedly removed from her post for a couple days following the incident but returned to class on Thursday.
She was assigned to a task that kept her away from children later that day after the city Education Department was contacted by reporters regarding the history lesson.
“While the investigation has not been completed, these are deeply disturbing allegations, and the alleged behavior has no place in our schools or in society,” Toya Holness, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, told the Daily News.
MS 118 Principal Giulia Cox declined to comment.
The student body at Middle School 118 is 81 percent black and Hispanic and just 3 percent white.