New York teacher accused of forcing students to pick cotton

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – A group of Rochester City School District parents are sounding the alarm after their children came home this week saying a School of the Arts teacher turned himself in racist remarks and activities.

Students who spoke with News 8 said the Grade 7 social studies teacher brought sacks of cotton to school and made students choose seeds. They said that on another occasion, the teacher brought shackles and handcuffs to use on students during a lesson.

“He said, ‘It’s cotton, you’re picking cotton today,’ so I immediately said, ‘Oh, I’m not doing that,'” student Janasia Brown said. “And then he said, ‘Do it. It’s for a good grade.

Students said the teacher favored white students in class. They said during the cotton picking incident – students in the class stood up to throw away their cotton, refusing to participate, but only white students were allowed to do so.

“I was just ashamed of being my own race,” student Jahmiere O’Neal said. “He made me feel degraded.”

Vialma Ramos-O’Neal says her son came home and told her the same things.

“Honestly, I didn’t believe it, because I didn’t expect something like this to happen these days,” she said. “Children of color had no choice and whether or not they wanted to participate, the Caucasian children could refuse to throw their cotton in and do a separate activity. But my child had to be forced into it, as well as being handcuffed and shackled. Absolutely not. This is unacceptable.”

The students also say the teacher criticized their weight and used “the R-word” in class.

The Rochester City School District said a teacher has been furloughed and an investigation is underway. The district is asking parents and students involved in this incident to contact them with this information.

“In a district of black and brown students, it is important to be sensitive to the historical setting in which our students engage and learn,” Rochester Board of Education President Cynthia Elliot said in a statement sent Friday. .

Rochester School Board Statement

The District was made aware of a lesson that caused great concern during a 7and social studies class at the arts school last Tuesday. The teacher was immediately furloughed and an investigation is ongoing. The District takes these situations very seriously, as the school community’s descriptions of what happened in the classroom are extremely disturbing. A letter has been sent to the families of this teacher’s students informing them of the situation. In this letter, we provided an email address that families could use to share any relevant information and concerns.

Board President Cynthia Elliott said, “In a black and brown student district, it’s important to be sensitive to the historical setting in which our students engage and learn.”

While this investigation is ongoing, we cannot provide any additional comments.

Letter sent to parents

As you may know, last Tuesday there was a lesson that caused serious concern during your child’s social studies class. I want to assure you that we take these allegations very seriously. The teacher was immediately furloughed and an investigation is ongoing.

A substitute teacher has been assigned to this class to ensure learning is not interrupted. As we are thoroughly investigating this situation, your child may be interviewed. If this happens, you will be notified.

Please know that the social and emotional well-being of our students is extremely important to us. School counselors are available for students who may need to discuss this situation. Also, if you have any information to share on this, please email us at [email protected]

Thank you for your continued support as we work to resolve this situation.

Kelly Nicastro, Director of the School of Arts


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