Students and parents of Bronx Middle School 118 were shocked to discover that social studies teacher Patricia Cummings went to disturbing lengths to teach her class about slavery.
Cummings picked the black students in her class and made them lie down on the floor, at which point she stepped on their backs to “show them what slavery felt like,” the New York Daily News reports. Cummings reportedly used this insensitive method, if it can be called that, of teaching in multiple seventh-grade classrooms. Cummings is white; the students at MS118 are 81 percent black and Hispanic, and only 3 percent white.
“It was a lesson about slavery and the Triangle Trade,” a boy in one Cummings’s class told the Daily News. “She picked three of the black kids,” and made them get 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?’"
At some point, a girl from one of the classes who was on the floor tried to make a joke and said she actually felt fine. That’s when Cummings stepped on her back, according to the student.
“She put her foot on her back and said ‘How does it feel?’” the student said. “‘See how it feels to be a slave?’”
“She had students lie on the floor,” said another student. “She was measuring the length and width to show how little space slaves had in the ship. It was strange.”
Cummings was removed, but only for a few days. She returned to class on Thursday. Later in that same day, Cummings was “reassigned away from children,” only after the Daily News contacted New York City’s Education Department and informed them of her slavery 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,” said Education Department spokeswoman Toya Holness.
The principal of the school, Giulia Cox, declined to comment.
Cummings herself also refused to speak to a reporter who approached her after school on Thursday.