A social studies teacher in the Bronx borough of New York City has been transferred from a school pending an investigation of reports that she ordered black students to lie on the floor and stepped on the back of one during a lesson on slavery.
“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,” city Department of Education spokeswoman Toya Holness said in a statement Friday.
The New York Daily News reported Thursday that students complained teacher Patricia Cummings, who is white, ordered black seventh-graders to lie on the floor face down in her classes at Bronx Middle School 118 during a lesson on slave ships and the slave trade two weeks ago.
“She had students lie on the floor,” one told the Daily News. “She was measuring the length and width to show how little space slaves had in the ship. It was strange.”
Another said that Cummings “picked three of the black kids” and told them to lie 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?’”
After a girl on the floor joked about feeling fine, Cummings allegedly put her foot on her back and said again, “See how it feels to be a slave?” the student said.
Several students and teachers expressed shock. The school is 3 percent white, 16 percent Asian, 21 percent black and 60 percent Latino, according to NBC-4 New York. But Cummings is also known as a popular teacher.
Parent Andrew Sims told CBS-2 New York, “To take your feet, step on the kid’s back, that’s a sign of disrespect, racism and everything else.”
Another parent, Benjamin Caceres, told CBS, “I’m all for students learning, but there should be boundaries, and there’s certain things that just shouldn’t be done.”
Cummings has posted on her personal page for the school: “I envision a world where people learn to respect, accept, and embrace the differences between us.” She could not be reached for comment.
Cummings has been a teacher at the middle school since since 2016 and has no prior disciplinary issues, according to the city Board of Education, NBC reported.
Letters were sent home with the students Friday to explain the situation, according to CBS.