Parents are calling on Mayor de Blasio to provide anti-bias training for teachers after The News exposed a shocking slavery lesson at Bronx Middle School 118.
Teacher Patricia Cummings was removed from her post Thursday after students and a staffer said she singled out black students and told them to lie on the floor for a lesson on U.S. slavery — and then stepped on their backs to show them what slavery felt like.
The alleged actions of Cummings, a seventh-grade social studies teacher who is white, sparked outrage around the city and quickly gained international notoriety.
Parents expressed disgust at the story and called on Mayor de Blasio to train teachers in cultural sensitivity.
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“Parents of color have been asking for this kind of training for years and the Mayor has been ignoring our voices,” said Bronx mom Annagine Lewis, a representative of the citywide Coalition for Educational Justice.
“This is much bigger than one teacher. This is not the first incident,” said Lewis, 47, a retail worker who has a child enrolled in a Bronx public school.
The incident at MS 118 is the latest in a string of events that raised concerns about cultural sensitivity in the public schools.
In 2013, two teachers from Manhattan Public School 59 issued a homework assignment to students that used killing and whipping slaves to teach basic math.
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They received training in cultural sensitivity after the incident but were not disciplined.
And in May a substitute teacher at Bronx Public School 76 was fired after he ripped a hijab off the head of a Bronx second-grader.
Parents at MS 118 were furious over the allegations against Cummings, who started working in city schools in 2016.
MS 118 parent Tamika Lasane, 36, said all the city’s teachers should be required to take cultural sensitivity and anti-bias training.
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“They need to take lessons in that so it doesn’t happen again,” said Lasane, whose son is in the seventh grade.
“This is February, this is Black History Month also, so I don’t know what they’re gonna teach them.”
Education Department officials said the city has provided anti-bias training to 450 city teachers in a new program this year, a fraction of the city’s teaching force of more than 77,000.
Mayor de Blasio refused to answer questions about the MS 118 incident at an unrelated press conference on Friday, but city schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said the matter is being investigated.
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“It’s a very serious allegation, and she was removed, and I think at this point we have to wait for the investigation to be complete,” Fariña said.
A de Blasio spokeswoman said the city has greatly expanded the scope of anti-bias training for city educators.
Parents held multiple demonstrations outside city Education Department headquarters and City Hall in 2017 calling for the city to release funding for anti-bias training for teachers.
Money to train more than 600 teachers was set aside for the effort in June but the anti-bias lessons for teachers didn’t begin until January.
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Cummings didn’t respond to a request for comment. She is reassigned away from the classroom while a probe of her actions is ongoing.
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ELLEN MOYNIHAN, MOLLY CRANE-NEWMAN, BEN CHAPMAN