School officials in western New York are investigating claims that a White teacher instructed his students, most of whom were Black, to pick seeds out of cotton while wearing handcuffs during class.
“It made me feel bad to be a Black person,” School of the Arts student Jahmiere O’Neal told news outlets after an appalled parent posted on Facebook that her daughter was confronted with the cotton-picking lesson Tuesday in a seventh grade classroom in Rochester, New York.
Classroom with empty wooden desks. (iStock)
“He made a mockery out of slavery,” the mother, Precious Tross, who also goes by Precious Morris, told news outlets later.
“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,” she said. “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 teacher has been put on leave while the school system investigates the allegations that reportedly took place in a social studies class.
School officials haven’t identified the teacher. Teachers union President Adam Urbanski told WXXI-AM that “if someone departs from what they should be doing, they should suffer the consequences, but due process has to be allowed first.”
Interior of classroom in elementary school. Row of empty desks are in illuminated room.
Tross and Vialma Ramos-O’Neal, who is Jahmiere’s mother, said the teacher let white children refuse to take part in the cotton-picking while not letting kids of color opt out.
“I immediately was like, ‘Oh, I’m not doing that,’” said Morris’ daughter, Ja’Nasia Brown. “And then he was like, ‘Do it. It’s for a good grade.’”
Students have also alleged that the teacher brought handcuffs and shackles into the classroom.
Tross said that when her daughter balked at putting them on, the teacher threatened to send her to the principal’s office or the school counselor.
The parents are calling for the teacher’s firing and for his teaching license to be revoked.
School Principal Kelly Nicastro told parents in a letter that school leaders “take these allegations very seriously,” and a statement from the school board called them “extremely troubling.”
Rochester School of the Arts did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Andrew Mark Miller is a writer at Fox News. Find him on Twitter @andymarkmiller and email tips to AndrewMark.Miller@Fox.com.