Patricia Cummings, Teacher Fired For Allegedly Stepping On Backs Of Black Students, Plans $1 Billion Lawsuit

Cummings said the allegations were not true, and an investigation may back up her claim.

An empty hallway in a school lined with lockers
David J. Mitchell / Getty Images

Cummings said the allegations were not true, and an investigation may back up her claim.

Patricia Cummings was fired from her job as a Bronx school teacher after she allegedly stepped on the back of black students during a bizarre lesson about slavery, and now the 37-year-old said she was wrongfully terminated and wants the city to pay to the tune of $1 billion.

Cummings said in a press conference on Thursday that she was wrongfully fired and that her reputation has been tarnished as a result, and she is planning to file a legal notice against the city asking for $1 billion in damages. As WPIX reported, Cummings has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner and is planning to file a civil lawsuit against a number of officials, including the school’s principal and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Cummings made national headlines last year after allegations that she walked on the back of black students while teaching a lesson about slavery. As the New York Daily News noted at the time, Cummings reportedly wanted to let the students know what slavery felt like during the time when West Africans were kidnapped and forced into slavery in the United States.

“She picked three of the black kids,” one boy said, noting that Cummings instructed them to get on the floor. “She said, ‘You see how it was to be a slave?’ She said, ‘How does it feel?'”

When one of the students made an uncomfortable joke and said she felt fine, Cummings stepped on her back, the student said.

The incident was widely seen as racist and took place in a school that is 81 percent black and Hispanic and just 3 percent white, the report noted. After the incident, Cummings was reassigned to a position not in contact with students, and the city’s Department of Education spoke out against her behavior.

“While the investigation has not been completed, these are deeply disturbing allegations, and the alleged behavior has no place in our schools or in society,” said Education Department spokeswoman Toya Holness.

Cummings claimed that none of the students were traumatized by the lesson, and a city investigation found the claims of her walking on the backs of students to be unsubstantiated, WPIX reported. She claims that she was targeted because of her race, and that media coverage of the story fanned the flames and has since left her unemployable.

Patricia Cummings said she also plans to sue the New York Daily News reporter who first wrote about the incident.