A mother was left appalled after a middle school teacher allegedly gave her twin daughters’ class a “racially insensitive assignment.” Saying her children were humiliated and confused by the lesson, the mom has since demanded that something is done about it.
Brandi Feazell, a Washington state mother, was left “floored” when she heard about a lesson on the Industrial Revolution that was allegedly taught in a social studies class at Sacajawea Middle School in Spokane. Feazell’s 14-year-old twins, who were part of the class and given the assignment, felt “humiliated and confused” after their teacher told the class they were going to do a “fun” activity, the mom claims.
So, what were the children asked to do? According to Feazell’s twins, Emzayia and Zyeshauwne Feazell, the social studies teacher pulled out a box of raw cotton and instructed the middle school students to clean the freshly picked cotton as part of a classroom assignment on the Industrial Revolution. They were allegedly told to see who could do so the fastest. This didn’t sit well with Feazell or her daughters, who are black.
The 14-year-olds — who were reportedly the only black students in the class — said they were “hurt” and “shocked” by the lesson, causing them to tell their mother about the incident. When their mom called and complained to the school, however, she alleges that the situation was only made worse.
After raising her concerns about the classroom assignment, Feazell alleges that Taylor Skidmore, the principal assistant, not only defended the teacher’s actions but he also allegedly suggested removing the twins from their social studies class, the mom said. The administrator’s alleged response, in which he suggested separating the two black students from the white teacher’s class, prompted Brandi Feazell to call for the administrator’s removal, BET reported.
“The school district did not do their job,” Feazell said. “I truly believe that at this point, the school district did not do their job,” she added, expressing her disappointment. “The administration at the school as well as the district level, are not protecting these children the way they need to,” Feazell furthered. “For you to pass out cotton … to my children [and tell them] that essentially, they’re going to pick the cotton clean and it’s a race of who can get it clean first, that was extremely bothersome to me and my children,” she continued. “Under no circumstance … do they need to be taught what it’s like to be a slave or what it’s like to be Black.”
Rather than being taught “what it’s like to be a slave or what it’s like to be Black” and learning about the troubling history of slavery in this way, Feazell said she wants her daughters to be reminded of their worth.
“I reinforced to my daughters that they are worthy and their value,” she explained. “That was a horrible time in our history and we should be learning from that and it should never be repeated,” she added. “[The teacher] is still at work and yet my kids are being punished when I’m told that the best thing they could do for my kids at that point was to segregate them into a room by themselves away from the white teacher.”
According to Sandra Jarrard, executive director of communications for the Spokane Public School district, a third-party investigation into the incident will be conducted, ABC News reported. A statement from the district added that there were “conflicting reports” regarding the incident.
“The students were learning about the Industrial Revolution and the cotton gin was discussed,” a statement from the Spokane Public School district said. “We take all complaints very seriously and are committed to investigating them fully. There are conflicting reports to this incident. Once the third party investigation is completed, we look forward to coming back to share the outcomes.”
Brandi Feazell isn’t satisfied with the response, however, saying that it “made it seem as if we were not going to be able to have my daughters in a safe environment at all,” adding that her girls had not returned to school since the incident at the time of her interview with 4 News Now.
The family has since called for both the social studies teacher and other school administrators to be disciplined for how they handled the situation. They are also calling for the removal of Taylor Skidmore, as well as a formal apology from the school district.
“We hope that these teachers and educators are going to fulfill and thrive and grow and help us create these children that are going to be productive citizens in the world and make it a better place,” Feazell said. “When I sent my children to school that day, they came back with their mental and their spirit and their emotional beings of themselves broken.”
While it’s easy to understand how the assignment could be upsetting to a black student, some would argue the importance of learning about history so we don’t repeat it. By studying the past, we can explore what went wrong. By actually experiencing the past, those in the present can understand history in a way that they might not have otherwise fully grasped — including the ugly parts of it.
Hearing about picking cotton is one thing, but participating in the cleaning of the extremely labor-intensive crop would give a clearer insight into what slaves were forced to endure. Obviously, this might be an unwelcomed assignment and experience for those with African-American ancestry. To exclude those students based on the color of their skin, however, would be discrimination. So, is this a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t? You decide.