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New York teacher put on leave after parents allege he made 7th-graders pick seeds out of cotton

By Kiely Westhoff and Laura Studley, CNN

A Rochester, New York, teacher has been placed on leave, according to a statement from the Rochester City School District Board of Education, after parents alleged he made his students pick seeds out of cotton during a lesson one parent said was about slavery.

Rochester School of the Arts teacher Patrick Rausch allegedly gave pieces of cotton to all of his seventh-grade students last week and instructed them to pick the seeds out of the cotton as part of an assignment, according to two parents of students in the class.

Rausch allowed White students in the class to throw their cotton away and forgo the assignment to work on their Chromebooks, Precious Morris, mother of a 13-year-old student, told CNN on Sunday.

Morris said that when her daughter Ja’Nasia Brown, who is Black, attempted to throw her cotton away, Rausch allegedly said she was not allowed to do so and if she did, she would receive a poor grade on the assignment. Morris said Rausch’s actions were rude and disrespectful.

“He is making a mockery out of slavery,” Morris said.

“I never would have thought a teacher would do such things. When you send your kid to school, you are sending them to school in the hands of those teachers.”

Another mother, Vialma Ramos-O’Neal, said her 13-year-old son Jahmiere O’Neal was taught the same lesson by Rausch in a separate social studies class. He is half Black and half Puerto Rican, she said.

Both parents are calling for Rausch’s teacher’s license to be revoked.

Rausch, who is White, told CNN he had no comment about the allegations or the ongoing school investigation.

CNN has reached out to the school for comment.

In a letter sent to the families of impacted seventh-graders, Rochester School of the Arts said it is investigating the incident and is interviewing students about Rausch’s conduct. A substitute teacher has been assigned to the class in the interim, and the school has made counselors available for students “who may need to discuss the situation,” the letter states.

In a statement to CNN, Rochester Board of Education President Cynthia Elliott said “in a District of black and brown students, it is important to be sensitive of the historical framework by which our students are engaging and learning,” Rochester Board President Cynthia Elliott said in a statement.

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