Spokane, WA

Outrage breaks out after Spokane teacher makes black students clean raw cotton: “We are hurt, angry, and traumatized”

Amy Christie

Erbs55/ Pixabay

Students and families in Spokane were reportedly outraged after a middle school teacher brought raw cotton on a classroom and asked two black students to clean it. The lesson was not focused on slavery. It was a social studies class on the industrial revolution.

What are the details?

As reported by KUOW-TV, the lesson that sparked all the controversy was actually on the major role Eli Whitney's cotton gin played in American economics.

Spokane Public Schools are currently creating an “equity policy” which is meant to follow a racial equity resolution that was passed in the district in 2020.

In May, the teacher whose identity had not been published, reportedly brought a box of raw cotton wood in a classroom at Sacajawea Middle School. The cotton was handed out to students and the kids were told that it would be a “fun” activity to complete and see who was the fastest.

Twins Emzayia and Zyeshauwne Feazell, who are 14 years old and black, didn’t go to any classes after that lesson, because they reportedly felt “hurt, angry, and traumatized,” as noted by The Blaze.

“I didn't understand why she was actually doing this as a teacher. Why she would bring a box of cotton into class,” Emzayia said for KUOW-TV.
“Once I started to realize what we were actually doing, I didn't like it. I didn't want to pay attention and listen to it anymore,” Zyeshauwne shared with the news outlet.

The twin black sisters also recalled how they “became even more uneasy when their classmates made comments about how they would not have picked cotton if they had been enslaved. They didn't have any reaction like we did. They were just ok.”

How did parents react?

After school finished the twins went home and talked to their mother, Brandi Feazell, about what had happened during that particular class and she immediately got in touch with the assistant principal.

“I had relayed to him at that point what my girls had described to me that transpired, and he immediately went into defense mode. Instead of maintaining his job and defending these children and making sure that their health and their safety, mentally and emotionally was taken care of and being their first line of defense, he did not portray any of that. He was more worried about his faculty,” Feazell said.

Taylor Skidmore, identified by NBC News as the administrator, reportedly assured the mother that the teacher would never try to hurt any student because he was a “very kind and gentle soul.”

When the mother brought up her intention to take the issue up with the school district, the administrator said that “only thing he could offer me at that point was to 'segregate' my daughters into a room by themselves, so they 'wouldn't have to be around the white teacher.’

The suggestion made Feazell angry because “it seemed to her this plan punished her daughters while leaving the social studies teacher's actions unaddressed.”

The family is now working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and TeamChild to decide on “the resolution they would like to see come from Spokane Public Schools.”

What was the school’s reaction?

“Spokane Public Schools recently received a complaint regarding a classroom lesson on the Industrial Revolution at Sacajawea Middle School. Upon receiving the complaint, SPS promptly solicited a third-party investigator to fully understand the situation. We will share the investigation's findings as soon as they are available. SPS is committed to transparency, as well as making sure all our students, families, and staff feel supported and heard,” was the statement from Spokane Public Schools.

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Amy Christie is a passionate writer and journalist, always striving to bring out the positive and create meaningful connections.

Dallas, TX

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