"This is why white parents do not want to send their children there.”
A white social studies teacher is accusing the City of New York of "reverse racism" after she was fired for allegedly forcing her black students to pretend to be slaves during a US history lesson back in January.
Patricia Cummings was ousted from Middle School 118 in the Bronx after she had singled out black students, asked them to lie on the floor and stepped on their backs to show them "what slavery felt like," the New York Daily News reported in February.
Now, the teacher has filed a Notice of Claim in anticipation of a lawsuit against “the city, parents, students and the media.” She claims to be a victim of reverse discrimination, defamation and negligence, among other claims, and seeks $120 million in damages, the NYDN reported on Thursday.
Cummings denies asking any student to lie on the floor or stepping on them. She says she merely asked them to sit close together to show them what the conditions were like on a slavery ship crossing the Middle Passage.
The Notice of Claim reportedly also states the lawsuit could become a $1 billion class action suit.
“It’s a scandal,” her attorney Tom Liotti told the NYDN. “There is blatant racism and reverse discrimination in the public schools of New York City. This is why white parents do not want to send their children there."
Students at Middle School 118 are 21% black, 60% Hispanic and 3% white.
Liotti said that white teachers who work in majority-minority schools in the Bronx deserve "combat pay."
“It’s no longer the blacks and minorities who are being discriminated against,” he said. “It is discrimination against white teachers who are making great sacrifices to be there.”
Department of Education spokesperson Doug Cohen, however, said an investigation into the incident determined Cummings's behavior was unacceptable.
Cummings, who had worked as a teacher in the city since 2006, had been kept in purgatory as the investigation took place but was informed of her firing earlier this month.
Back in February, news of Cummings' inappropriate history lesson sparked backlash, drawing criticism from figures like radio host Charlamagne Tha God.
"The school is 81 percent black and hispanic, so I have one question: Why is Patricia in the kitchen on soul food Sunday?" the radio host said. "When it's time to make a nice quiche call Patricia. You know damn well when Patricia makes the potato salad she's heavy-handed with the mayonnaise."
"If you are a white teacher teaching a majority black and hispanic class, you should have to run those lesson plans by some type of diversity board at the school," Charlamagne added.
Many parents echoed the radio host's feelings and called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to provide anti-bias training for teachers. De Blasio obliged in April, and set aside $23 million for such training for NYC public school educators.
Germania is a staff writer at Pluralist.
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