Teacher Stepped On Black Student's Back In Slavery Lesson

Students at a middle school in the Bronx complained that their teacher made them lie on the floor and stepped on their backs to teach them a lesson about slavery. The school district is now investigating the incident. GETTY

A Bronx teacher is under investigation after a report found that students were forced to lie on the ground as part of a slavery lesson.

Students at Middle School 118 told The New York Daily News that their social studies teacher, Patricia Cummings, picked three of the black students in her classroom and told them to lie on the floor to see "how it was to be a slave" for a lesson on the Middle Passage, where slaves were brought on ships to America.

"How does it feel?" she asked the students.

When one girl made a joke and said she felt fine, the teacher reportedly stepped on her back.

"She put her foot on her back and said 'How does it feel?'" the student said. "'See how it feels to be a slave?'"

The incident took place two weeks ago. The teacher was removed from her class following the incident but then returned Thursday to the school, according to Daily News.

"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," Toya Holness, Education Department spokeswoman told the Daily News.

The student body at Middle School 118 in the Bronx is made up of 81 percent black and Latinx students and three percent white students.

Cummings's exercise with the students was reportedly supposed to display what little space slaves had aboard slave ships. Before the lesson, she showed the students a video of how slaves were treated aboard the ship.

"She was measuring the length and width to show how little space slaves had in the ship," one student said. "It was strange."

It's not the first time a teacher has landed in hot water for their slavery lesson. A teacher in North Carolina in October asked students to give "four reasons why Africans made good slaves" in an assignment.

With Black History Month underway, teachers across the nation will begin teaching lessons dealing with sensitive subjects like slavery and segregation.

A new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance project found that schools are failing students in teaching slavery when high school seniors are incapable of answering "basic questions about the enslavement of Africans" and "teachers who are serious about teaching slavery struggle to provide deep coverage of the subject in the classroom."