Teacher who allegedly stepped on students’ backs wants $1 billion in damages

NEW YORK — A teacher fired after allegedly stepping on African-American students’ backs during a slavery lesson at a Bronx school is filing a legal notice against the city, asking for damages of $1 billion, all in an effort to clear her name.

Patricia Cummings was fired from a Bronx school after allegedly stepping on African-American students' backs during a history lesson on slavery in January 2018. More than a year later, she plans to file a lawsuit. (PIX11)

Patricia Cummings, 37, said at a news conference Thursday that she was wrongfully terminated at Middle School 118: The William W. Niles School, and her name has been tarnished.

Cummings filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and is in the early stages of filing a civil lawsuit against the school principal and city officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, who she says should have known what was going on or what was being reported.

She’s also filing a suit against reporter Ben Chapman and his employer, the Daily News, for first publishing the report she claims is false.

During a social studies lesson on Jan. 9, 2018, Cummings allegedly told several of her students to lie on the floor and stepped on their backs to re-enact what it was like to be a slave. She says none of her students were traumatized by the lesson.

The school reportedly has a population with a majority of black and Hispanic students.

City investigators reviewed her case and found the claims to be unsubstantiated, but Cummings said remained suspended. She is currently unemployed.

Cummings said the Daily News used her to write a "compelling story," and uproar against her alleged actions was heightened because of media coverage.

Since reports from media outlets worldwide, she said she has received several threats and has feared for her life.

Cummings claims the incident did not happen as it was portrayed in the media, and that she was being targeted because she is white.

“It could have been any teacher in the DOE (Department of Education) that this happened to, but I was a white teacher from the Bronx. I fit the profile. I fit their compelling story that they needed to move their agenda to get that cultural responsive agenda through,” she said.

Cummings and her attorney discuss her complaint — watch live:

Correction: The story initially misreported Cummings had filed a lawsuit. It has been updated to reflect that she is in the early stages of filing a civil lawsuit.

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