The Spokane Public School District has begun investigating an incident in which a teacher is accused of forcing two Black students to pick cotton for a class assignment.
The Associated Press reports that the incident took place during the first week of May. Two Black students at Sacajawea Middle School said that their social studies teacher presented the class with a box of cotton and challenged them to see who could pick cotton the fastest.
“The teacher kept saying, ‘We don’t need slaves anymore',” one of the students said.
“That really hurt because it felt like she was saying there was a time when slavery was OK.”
After the parents raised concerns, Sacajawea Middle School Assistant Principal Taylor Skidmore offered to remove the two Black students from the class. However, it does not appear that Skidmore outright told the teacher to stop challenging students to pick cotton.
The mother of the two students, Brandi Feazell, said that her children have not returned to school since the incident occurred and will not return until they feel adequate action has been taken.
“As two of the only three Black students in the class that day, my daughters already felt singled out during an activity that required them to clean cotton,” Feazell said.
“Separating them from the rest of the class would only compound their pain and isolation and do nothing to change the racist culture and policies that led to this inappropriate and harmful lesson in the first place.”
After learning of the assignment and the administrator's response, the Spokane Public School District issued a statement and announced that it would look into the matter further.
“We take all complaints very seriously and are committed to investigating them fully. There are conflicting reports regarding this incident," the district said.
“Once the third-party investigation is completed, we look forward to coming back to share the outcomes."
Photo Credit: Getty Images