Teacher Faces Suspension After Telling Students to Pick Cotton

There are numerous allegations of racist behavior against a Rochester School of the Arts teacher, including using handcuffs and leg shackles on mostly Black students and forcing them to pick cotton during a seventh grade social studies class. The teacher has been placed on leave as a result.

Teachers Patrick Rausch, a 20-year veteran of Rochester schools in Rochester, New York, told students that he called himself “massah” and would allow white students in the classes to stop when they complained but not Black students, according to the mothers of two children in different sections of the same class.

By way of explanation, “I nearly drove off the road,” says Precious Tross, the mother of a student in Rausch’s class. Last week, Tross shared a picture of her daughter’s cotton boll from school on Facebook in an attempt to draw attention to the event.

“She’s traumatized; she feels belittled,” Tross said. “He made a mockery out of slavery. How dare you.”

After Tross’ first tweet, the cotton-picking lesson was extensively disseminated, including in a widely distributed email from the advocacy organization Save Rochester on Thursday night.

Upon learning of what happened, the district placed Rausch on administrative leave while it conducted an investigation into the incident. All seventh-grade families received a message in their inboxes.

“The district takes these situations very seriously, as descriptions of what occurred in the classroom by the school community are extremely troubling,” the school board wrote in a statement. 

School of the Arts has a student body that is around 50/50 white and black.

Jahmiere O’Neal’s mother, Vialma Ramos, originally doubted her son’s claim that he had plucked cotton at school on Tuesday. She thought it sounded like something out of a science fiction novel. It wasn’t until then that she discovered Tross’ Facebook post.

Ramos learned that Rausch had used insults related to O’Neal’s developmental handicap while discussing her son with her son.

“I have fought all along for Jahmiere to be included in everything his peers are, and this man degraded him, insulted him and made him not want to be Black,” Ramos said. “I was in shock.”

As stated by their moms, one of the two kids also claimed that Rausch had shackled Black pupils in class earlier this year. His reply when it became apparent they couldn’t get out of it went something like this: “It’s OK, your forefathers couldn’t either.”

As one furious parent put it, “I am going to stand on my ten toes until I receive justice,” Tross added. She went on to say that her daughter had stopped eating breakfast because Rausch made fun of her weight. She said that she was thinking about suing him and the school system.

In order to prevent Rausch from ever teaching again, Tross and Ramos claimed they would want to see him expelled. That would necessitate the district initiating 3020-a procedures, or termination proceedings in New York.

Rausch’s phone calls were unanswered as of Friday afternoon. Adam Urbanski, the president of the Rochester Teachers Association, declined to comment.

A regular stream of racist and insensitive school teachings, including inaccurate and insulting depictions of slavery, has surfaced in the Rochester region and abroad.

Cynthia Elliott, the school board president who has previously criticized the district’s mostly white teaching staff in comparison to its predominantly nonwhite student population, said she was awaiting the results of the investigation before making a decision.

This is “problematic, troubling, and it shouldn’t be going on,” she added if that’s what occurred. Teaching Black and Latino pupils in Rochester seems like an odd choice, to say the least.

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