Black parent files civil rights suit against LA school after a COTTON FIELD was set up
A black parent has filed a civil rights lawsuit over a cotton field planted outside a school it says was intended to show students what slavery was like.
Rashunda Pitts is suing the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Board of Education over the cotton field, established in 2017, which she said had “disturbed” her now 14-year-old daughter.
She also claimed that the school tried to lie to cover up the project after it was exposed.
According to the lawsuit, the school’s social justice teacher explained that the project at the Laurel Span School was to help students “get a real-life experience of what the African-American slaves had to endure.”
Pitts states that as of 2017, she noticed her daughter, referred to only as “SW,” became “very quiet and reserved” as she “lively shared her day with her mother.”
“She has uncontrollable anxiety attacks and depression when she thinks about the cotton-picking project,” the indictment, which also alleges negligence and seeks unspecified damages.
SW reportedly grew grumpy and withdrew as the 2017 academic year progressed, leaving it due to fatigue.
Laurel Span School — now known as Laurel Cinematic Arts Creative Tech Magnet — set up a cotton field in 2017 that a black mom says was in court to teach students what it was like to be a slave
The daughter had “uncontrollable anxiety attacks and gets depressed when she thinks about the cotton picking project,” the lawsuit said. Pictured: African Americans pick cotton in a field in Georgia, date unknown
When Pitts dropped her daughter off at the school one day, she saw the cotton field and connected it to her daughter’s mental state “when she thinks about the cotton-picking project,” the suit states.
Stunned at why a cotton field would grow in Hollywood, much less on the grounds of a public school, she called the front office to talk to the principal about the cotton field,” it reads.
Instead, she spoke to assistant principal Brian Wisniewski, who explained that SW’s class was reading Frederick Douglass’ autobiography.
He said the cotton field was built so that students can have a “real life experience” of slavery, the lawsuit said.
“Completely outraged at the idea of the school letting her daughter and other children pick cotton as a school exercise to identify with the real-life experience of African American slaves, Ms. Pitts expressed her disappointment and pain at the culturally insensitive and incompetent project,” the indictment said.
It seems Wisniewski agreed with Pitts and said director Amy Diaz would contact her.
When Pitts demanded that they take down the cotton field within 24 hours, Diaz said they couldn’t accommodate her so soon, it would take a week or two, and she couldn’t promise anything.
SW claimed that students had to work in the fields to pick the cotton, and although she didn’t have to, she had to watch her classmates do it.
She added that her daughter was reluctant to come forward about the project’s impropriety for fear of retaliation from teachers that could hurt her grades, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that the school failed to provide parental consent forms or inform parents about the project.
Pitts went on to claim that the school tried to cover up the cotton field reintroduction of slavery by issuing a public statement contradicting explanations it had been given personally.
As a result, Pitts said her daughter was discriminated against based on her race.
The mother claims that the school tried to cover up the “insensitive” project by denying the children reliving the experiences of slaves. Illustrated: Enslaved people picking cotton on a plantation circa 1800
The school district’s statement said it regrets “that an educational activity in the Laurel School yard was perceived as culturally insensitive,” the lawsuit said.
“Treating the garden where all kinds of fruits, vegetables and other plants grow is a school-wide tradition that has existed for years and has never been used as a tool to re-enact historical events,” the statement said.
“When school administrators learned that a parent was concerned about the cotton plant, they responded immediately by removing the plant.”
Pitts’ lawsuit alleges the statement is an admission that the cotton-picking project was discriminatory and harmful to students, the lawsuit continues.
The then principal of the school and the social justice teacher were also named in the lawsuit as defendants alongside the school and the board of education.
In the years following the project, the Laurel Span School closed and reopened under the name Laurel Cinematic Arts Creative Tech Magnet.