A New Jersey middle school teacher is currently under investigation after allegedly making sounds resembling a whip cracking and kicking students’ feet during a lesson on slavery, NBC reported on Wednesday.
The investigation is being led by the New Jersey school district after a student from Toms River Intermediate School-East, which is located in Toms River — a coastal town 75 miles south of New York City — filed a complaint.
The teacher at the center of the probe is Lawrence Cuneo, who teaches eighth-grade social studies, according to Michael Kenny, a school district spokesman.
“Our district is undergoing a thorough investigation into this matter,” Kenny told NBC in a statement.
“As we comb through and further investigate the details of the alleged incident, we are keeping in mind that our curriculum has evolved to include more hands-on, authentic activities.”
The spokesman made sure to note that it did not appear as though the educator conducted the lesson with any malicious intentions, but that he should have exhausted better judgment in his methodology, “particularly as it pertains to recognizing the sensitivities of all students.”
Over 82 percent of the middle school’s student population is white, while 2 percent is black.
Students were reportedly told to lay on the floor while Cuneo, 59, kicked their feet and made whipping noises. They were additionally made to pretend to pick cotton like slaves, according to the Asbury Park Press. The publication said they received screenshots of a student’s social media post that detailed the experience. The images were sent by their mother in order to preserve their anonymity.
“It’s good to be informed about slavery but making us clean and pick cotton and pretending to wip [sic] us? Are you nuts it’s 2020 not 1800 get it right,” the unnamed student shared in their post.
Cuneo has been a teacher for 18 years and earned a salary of about $73,000 last year, according to the Asbury Park Press.
However, he is also a politician who is currently serving his third term as mayor of Pine Beach, a small borough in Ocean County, New Jersey. His term of office is due to continue until December 31. He earned $2,500 for his role as mayor last year.
The controversial news surrounding Cuneo follows the recent trial of another New Jersey teacher, Nicole Dufault.
Dufault, 40, taught at Columbia High School in Maplewood and was convicted of sleeping with six of her adolescent male students a few weeks ago, per The Inquisitr.