Middle school teacher Patricia Cummings was fired from New York City public schools in October after allegedly forcing black students in the Bronx to play slaves, and stepping on at least one student’s back
A New York City school teacher who was fired for a lesson on slavery gone terribly wrong is planning to sue the city for $1billion.
Patricia Cummings, 37, allegedly told three students at a predominantly black and Hispanic school in The Bronx to lie down to illustrate conditions on a slave ship, after which she stepped on their backs to show ‘what it’s like to be a slave’.
Cummings had first been reassigned and then suspended pending termination from Middle School 118 in The Bronx, which became official in October.
In a press conference with her lawyer Thomas Liotti Thursday, Cummings said: ‘I have no career at this point.’
She filed a lawsuit against the city of New York in September, claiming she is the victim of ‘reverse racism,’ seeking $120 million in damages.
It also named the Department of Education, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and several media outlets as defendants.
But her lawyer said Thursday they now plan to build a $1billion class-action lawsuit with other teachers who claim to have faced similar discrimination.
Liotti said the lesson only became an issue because of Cumming’s race, and said other black teachers will testify in her defense.
‘That 20 seconds of a teachable moment changed my life,’ Cummings said. ‘Anyone who has met me knows I don’t have that bone in my body,’
Cummings has denied that she stepped on the students’ backs.
Cummings is planning to sue the city for $1billion in a class-action case with other teachers who claim they were victims of similar discrimination
City Department of Education spokesperson Doug Cohen said at the time of her firing: ‘Ms. Cummings was terminated based on the results of this investigation and a review of her overall performance as an educator.
Cummings reportedly carried out the poorly executed lesson in mid-January 2017 while discussing the infamous Middle Passage: the forced voyage of African captives across the Atlantic Ocean to America as part of the global slave trade.
The slave ships were notoriously cramped, filthy and riddled with disease, and a high percentage of the enslaved people died en route to the New World.
Speaking to the New York Daily News earlier this year, students said that Cummings had singled out three black children and instructed them to stretch out on the floor in front of the class.
She then reportedly asked the trio: ‘You see how it was to be a slave? How does it feel?’
According to the student, when one of the children said she felt fine, Cummings allegedly put her foot on the girl’s back and inquired again, ‘How does it feel? See how it feels to be a slave?’.
The incident took place at Bronx Middle School 118, where more than 80 per cent of the student body is black and Hispanic
Ms Cummings was removed from the classroom and subjected to an investigation, after which she was suspended pending termination, which became effective on Friday.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said an investigation had found that Ms Cummings used poor judgment, and that her employment had been terminated based on this.
‘There is blatant racism and reverse discrimination in the public schools of New York City,’ Liotti told the New York Daily News on September 27.
‘This is why white parents do not want to send their children there.’
He added: ‘The Bronx has been described by some as a ‘war zone’. White teachers who work there should get combat pay.’
City of New York DOE spokesperson dismissed Ms Cummings’ lawsuit as ‘baseless’.
According to her LinkedIn page, Cummings has a Bachelors’ degree from Adelphi University and a Master’s degree in teaching from the State University of New York College of Old Westbury.
She was hired to teach seventh- and eighth-grade social studies at MS 118 in The Bronx in September 2016.
The student body at the school is 60 per cent Hispanic and 21 per cent black, and less than 3 per cent of the students are white.