Black Family Sued Woke School After Learning Teacher Wanted Daughter to Have a 'Real Life' Slavery Experience
A black woman whose initial attempt to sue the Los Angeles Unified School District over a 2017 school project designed to teach students about slavery firsthand is trying again.
In the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Rashunda Pitts alleged the school district discriminated against her daughter, identified in the suit as S.W., according to KNBC.
The first version of the lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in 2019, according to Justia U.S. Law.
That lawsuit went through multiple continuances, some linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, before being dismissed on April 26 because no pretrial documents were filed. On July 8, Pitts lost her appeal of the federal court dismissal.
The July 8 order dismissing Pitts’s appeal makes reference to settlement discussions between Pitts and the school district, but it does not explain what was taking place. Roughly a month after losing in federal court, Pitts filed her lawsuit in California state court.
Rashunda Pitts said her daughter experienced emotional distress as a result of the project at Laurel Cinematic Arts Creative Tech Magnet that her teacher said was to help students “gain a real-life experience of what African American slaves had endured,”https://t.co/HGVMUFz9rw
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) August 15, 2022
The lawsuit attacked what Pitts called the “Cotton Picking Project,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
In 2017, the girl was attending since-closed Laurel Span School and participated in a project designed to “gain a real-life experience as to what the African American slaves had endured.” The suit said this caused the girl emotional distress.
“She (S.W.) has uncontrollable anxiety attacks and has experiences bouts of depression when she thinks about the cotton picking project,” the suit alleged, the Times reported. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
The suit said that in September 2017, the girl, now 14, became withdrawn when discussing school, a major change from her initial attitude.
Pitts said that when she saw a cotton field at the school and inquired about it, she was told it was an activity linked to the reading of the autobiography of Frederick Douglass and was designed to show students what slavery was really like.
“Bewildered as to why a cotton field would be growing in Hollywood, let alone on public school property, she called the front office to speak with the principal about the cotton field,” the suit said, according to KNBC.
“Completely incensed with the idea that the school would have 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 hurt in regards to the culturally insensitive and incompetent project,” the suit said.
Pitts demanded the field be taken down in 24 hours. School officials said they might be able to do that in a week or so, according to the Times.
The school district issued a statement in October 2017 saying that they regret “that an instructional activity in the garden at Laurel School was construed as culturally insensitive,” according to the state court lawsuit obtained by NBC News.
“Tending to the garden where a variety of fruits, vegetables and other plants grow is a school-wide tradition that has been in place for years and has never been used as a tool to re-enact historical events,” the 2017 school statement said.
The district said it would not comment on the suit filed in state court, according to NBC News.
The lawsuit said students were required to pick cotton, although S.W. was not among them. Instead, she tended to other crops in the school’s garden, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said the girl said nothing at the time for fear of bad grades. The lawsuit also said parents were not informed of the activity, and their permission for their children to participate was never given.
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