NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Bronx middle school teacher has been reassigned away from students after giving a controversial lesson on slavery.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, students at Middle School 118 in the East Tremont section of the Bronx claim seventh-grade social studies teacher Tricia Cummings told several black children to lie on the floor during a lesson about the slave trade and the cruel conditions aboard slave ships.
When one girl laughed uncomfortably, Cummings allegedly stepped on her back, saying “See how it feels to be a slave?”
The controversy was first reported in the Daily News.
“To take your feet (and) step on the kid’s back, that’s a sign of disrespect, racism and everything else,” said parent Andrew Sims.
“I’m all for students learning,” said parent Benjamin Caceres, “but there should be boundaries, and there’s certain things that just shouldn’t be done.”
“She should be reprimanded, not let go, because I heard she was a great teacher. But when you do wrong things, it always backfires, so she should’ve thought about it before she did it,” said Abbie Anderson, another parent.
Chancellor Carmen Fariña told CBS2 that Cummings has been temporarily reassigned.
“I don’t want to make any suppositions,” Fariña said. “It’s under investigation. It’s a very serious allegation, and she was removed, and I think at this point we have to wait for the investigation.”
Several students who had the teacher said they liked her very much.
“She was a great teacher,” one girl said. “I was surprised when they told me this happened. But I don’t actually believe she’d do something like that.”
Students went home Friday with a letter from the principal, who promises to work with teachers on best practices for covering sensitive material, such as slavery.
CBS2 emailed Cummings for comment, but she did not respond. On her website, the teacher says her goal is to create a “caring safe and fairminded” classroom environment.