Probe into teacher’s slave lesson wraps up

Cyril Josh Barker | 8/23/2018, 5:59 p.m.
As the school year gets underway in the next few weeks, a probe over a teacher who stood on the ...
Education

As the school year gets underway in the next few weeks, a probe over a teacher who stood on the backs of Black students during a lesson about slavery at a Bronx middle school is now over.

The controversy involves white, M.S. 118 teacher Patricia Cummings who stepped on the backs of Black students during Black History Month while teaching a lesson about on the Middle Passage.

“You see how it was to be a slave,” Cummings said to the students. “How does it feel? See how it feels to be a slave?”

At the time, protests called for Cummings to be fired. She was taken out of the classroom during the seven-month investigation and was placed in a reassignment center, also called a “rubber room.” She still reportedly received her $68,934 salary.

Issues were raised about diversity among New York City public school teachers and the Department of Education’s practices on racial bias training.

When asked about the status of the investigation, the DOE told the AmNews in a statement that they have plans to release an update on the situation in the fall.

“We release the findings of an investigation when the matter is resolved,” the DOE said. “We cannot complete this process for teachers when they’re not working over the summer.”

In an interview with the AmNews in June, newly appointed public schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza said schools have taken some steps already around making the curriculum culturally responsive. He said one school in particular used math during a lesson on civil rights.

“One of the teachers said, ‘Well, students are going to talk about Jim Crow Laws and how back in our earliest days of our history, African-Americans were three-fifths of a vote.’ So we can use that as part of our fractions lesson,” Carranza said.

The incident at M.S. 118 was just one of string of incidents that raised eyebrows last school year.

At a Queens Catholic school, 17-year-old Black honor student Malcolm Xavier Combs wanted to put Malcolm X on the back of his senior sweatshirt. White administrators denied his request, stating that the civil rights activist was “…a person you don’t want to be associated with.”

At Intermediate School 224 in the Bronx, white principal Patricia Catania allegedly ordered a Black English/language arts teacher not to teach Black history to students. Catania was later accused of confiscating a student’s Black history poster about icon Lena Horne with no explanation. Catania later returned the poster.