NY Teacher Allegedly Instructed Students To Pick Cotton, Wear Shackles In History Lesson
"It made me feel bad to be a Black person,"one student said.
by Danteé Ramos
May 06, 2022 at 8:44 pm
A Rochester school teacher, Patrick Rausch, is under investigation following allegations that he instructed his class of mostly Black students to pick seeds out of cotton and put them in shackles during a history lesson.
The School of the Arts has placed the tenured teacher on paid administrative leave pending further investigation.
The seventh-grade social studies lesson was like any other, teaching students about the long history of slavery and how cotton was processed until Raush distastefully asked his students to pick cotton seeds.
“He gave the whole class cotton, and we were made to pick out the cotton seeds,” Jahmiere O’Neal, a student in Rausch’s class, told WXXI News. “He [Rausch] said, ‘Better clean it right, boy.”
“It made me feel bad to be a Black person,” O’Neal said.
He explains the class was in utter shock and confused about how to react to the disrespectful instructions given by their teacher.
“We were all shocked. We were just surprised that he would give us cotton, and we didn’t know what to do,” O’Neal said.
Jahmiere’s mom, Vialma Ramos-O’Neal, and another student’s mother, Precious Tross, are upset by the incident and said Rausch let white children sit out the cotton-picking lesson while not accepting students of color refusals.
Students have allegedly claimed Rausch has brought in handcuffs and shackles for previous history lessons.
Tross recalls that her daughter reported rebutting at putting the shackles on but was prompted to wear them or go to the principal’s office. Following the cotton seed lesson, she posted on Facebook a photo of cotton balls that Rausch gave her daughter with a caption scolding his ignorance.
“MY DAUGHTER SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER GRADE 7TH GRADE COUNT YO DAYS HOW THE HELL U MAKE MY BABY LEARN HOW TO PICK COTTON SEEDS OUT OF THE COTTON N TO TELL THEM NOT TO SING THAT SLAVERY SONG IN YO CLASS #WAY #IN #THE #WATER,” Tross wrote.
“AND A LIL GIRL SAY YES MASSAH AND THE TEACHER GONE PUT HIS TWO FINGERS UP AND SAY YES I AM MASSAH THE 3 CAUCASIAN KIDS SAID IM NOT PICKING NO SEEDS OUT NO COTTON THAT’S NOT MY JOB AND THROWS IT IN THE TRASH AND HE GON TELL THEM TO GET ON THERE CHROME BOOKS YALL A SEE ME IN THE MORNING'” Tross added.
She continued to unload her feelings during an interview with WWXI News on the unfortunate incident at the NY school.
“I don’t have a problem with you teaching our kids about slavery and what our ancestors went through and how they had to deal with that,” she told WXXI News. “Our teachers back in the day told us that, but they don’t bring cotton and make you pick cotton seeds out of cotton. And you got the audacity to put the instructions on the board for them.”
“My daughter was looking to the floor. She should not have experienced something like that,” Tross said. “That is a mockery. That is disrespectful. You do not put our kids in any situation like that when you know our history. That hurts me to the core,” she added.
Adam Urbanski, the Teachers union president, said an investigation is underway before further decisions can be made.
“If someone departs from what they should be doing, they should suffer the consequences, but due process has to be allowed first,” Urbanski said.
The two mothers have since come together to have a community town hall meeting in Rochester to discuss white teachers’ cultural insensitivity.
Rausch has made no comments.