A New York middle school social studies teacher is being investigated after Black students said he told them to pick seeds out of cotton and wear shackles during a history lesson last week.
"He gave the whole class cotton and we were made to pick out the cotton seeds," Rochester's School of the Arts seventh-grader Jahmiere O'Neal told WXXI News about his teacher Patrick Rausch. "He said, 'Better clean it right, boy.'"
Most of Jahmiere's classmates are Black and brown, the middle schooler shared. Their teacher is white. "We were all shocked. We were just surprised that he would give us cotton and we didn't know what to do," Jahmiere said.
One of Jahmiere's classmates, Ja'Nasia Brown, pushed back against participating, the NY Post reported.
"I immediately was like, 'Oh, I'm not doing that,' And then he was like, 'Do it. It's for a good grade.'" The white students in the class, were reportedly allowed to opt out of the assignment. Rausch also allegedly referred to himself as "Massah" during the class, too.
Jahmiere's mother, Vialma Ramos-O'Neal, and other parents, including Precious Tross, are calling for Rausch to be fired and his teaching license revoked. Tross shared with the outlet that her daughter who was also in the class was visibly upset after school.
"My daughter was looking to the floor," Tross said. "She should not have experienced something like that. That is a mockery. That is disrespectful. You do not put our kids in any situation like that when you know our history."
Tross shared a photo of the cotton her daughter was given in school on Facebook. The post has since been shared more than 500 times.
"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," Tross clarified. "Our teachers back in the day told us that, but they don't bring cotton and make you pick seeds out of cotton."
The Rochester City School District announced Thursday (April 28) that it is investigating the situation. In a letter sent to parents, School of the Arts principal Kelly Nicastro said some students may be interviewed as a part of the investigation.