Black mom sues LAUSD over cotton-picking project at school

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A black parent filed a civil rights lawsuit last week against the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Board of Education, saying a cotton farm was set up at an elementary school in 2017 intended to rid students of slaves. To teach about experiences.

Rushunda Pitts said her 14-year-old daughter, referred to as “SW” in the lawsuit, experienced emotional distress as a result of the project at Laurel Cinematic Arts Creative Tech Magnates, which her social justice teacher asked students to help. was. Get a real-life experience of what African American slaves endured,” according to the lawsuit, which named the school’s then-principal and social justice teacher as defendants.

Pitts said that in September 2017, she noticed that her daughter had become “very quiet and reserved” when she “lively shared her day with her mother,” the suit states.

One day, as Pitts was about to drop off her daughter at Laurel Cinematic Arts creative tech magnate, she saw a cotton field in front of the school and called the office to speak to the school’s principal, Amy Diaz, who, according to the lawsuit was unavailable. , Pitts spoke with assistant principal Brian Wisniewski, who explained that SW’s class was reading an autobiography of Frederick Douglass and the cotton field was created so that students could have a “real-life experience” of slavery, the lawsuit says.

After Pitts expressed his disappointment with the project, Wisniewski agreed and said the school principal would reach out to Pitts, the lawsuit says. Diaz listened to Pitts’ request to take down the cotton farm in 24 hours, but said the school could not adjust to the change so quickly, adding that it could aim for the weekend or next week, But could not make any promises according to the lawsuit.

Wisniewski did not immediately return a request for comment. A spokesperson for LAUSD said the district did not comment on the ongoing or pending lawsuit.

Pitts’ daughter also stated that her social justice teacher required students to “pick up cotton” and was not forced to do so herself, but she had other students complete the project while she was on trial. He took care of other crops in the garden accordingly. ,

Pitts’ daughter said she was afraid to tell him about the project because she didn’t want retaliation from teachers or bad grades. The school did not take permission from the parents for its students to participate in the project nor were they informed of the existence of the project, the suit alleges.

According to the lawsuit, the school district later issued a statement to a reporter, saying it regretted that “an instructional activity in the garden at Laurel Cinematic Arts Creative Tech Magnet was deemed culturally insensitive.”

According to the statement, “Turning to the garden where a variety of fruits, vegetables and other plants grow is a school-wide tradition that has been going on for years and a tool to re-enact historical events ever since.” Not used as such.” “When school administrators became aware of the parent’s concern about the cotton plant, they immediately responded by removing the plant.”

Pitts alleges that the district lied to cover up his conduct, and this statement “outright contradicts” the explanation given by the school’s assistant principal about the project. As a result, Pitts said that his daughter was discriminated against on the basis of her race.

“SW has suffered extreme emotional distress,” the lawsuit states. “She has uncontrollable anxiety attacks and bouts of depression when she thinks about the cotton picking project.”

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