A white Bronx Middle School teacher created a firestorm after simulating an offensive demonstration, instructing Black students to lie on the floor while she placed her foot on their backs in order to emulate the pain of slavery.
The teacher, identified as Patricia Cummings, enacted the lesson about two weeks ago during a lesson on the Middle Passage–a violent portion of the American Slave trade where thousands of enslaved Africans were transported in dire conditions.
Cummings taught seventh graders at Middle School 118, a school whose population is predominantly Black and Latino, comprising 81 percent of the total population, the Daily News reports.
Several students and a staff member gave horrifying accounts to New York Daily News “She picked three of the black kids,” said one male student who asked to remain anonymous, and instructed them to get on the floor in front of the classroom. “She said, ‘You see how it was to be a slave?’ She said, ‘How does it feel?’”
When one of the female students on the floor joked that she felt fine, Cummings stepped on her back and asked, “See how it feels to be a slave?”
Another student said that prior to the incident, the watched a video which showed slaves being beaten, tortured and thrown overboard.
For her transgressions, Cummings received a mere slap on the wrist and was suspended for a few days, returning to work on Thursday. According to the Daily News, Cummings was reassigned to away from children later in the day after the outlet called the City Education Department to inquire about the event.
“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,” said Education Department spokeswoman Toya Holness in a statement to the outlet. When questioned by the Daily News, the school’s principal, Giulia Cox, declined to comment.
Another story that demonstrates how volatile a history lesson can be when it’s placed in the wrong hands.