California mom sues LA school district after students made to PICK COTTON for project
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: A California mom filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles Unified School District last week, alleging her 14-year-old daughter suffered mental distress after a cotton-picking field was set up at her Hollywood school in 2017.
Rashunda Pitts alleges that school officials discriminated against her daughter who is identified only as SW in the Los Angeles Superior Court complaint brought Wednesday, August 10. "She (SW) has uncontrollable anxiety attacks and has experiences bouts of depression when she thinks about the cotton-picking project," according to the suit.
SW attended Lauren Span School in Hollywood in the fall of 2017 and just like every other child, she used to share every event of her day with her mother. But as the semester went on, Rashunda saw a drop of interest and "extreme emotional distress," including anxiety and depression, in her nature, states the suit.
"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 states.
Pitts herself saw the cotton field while dropping her daughter off at school. Upon discovering about the ‘cotton-picking’ event, Pitts decided to speak to the assistant principal of the school, Brian Wisniewski.
Wisniewski "enthusiastically informed her that the children in SW's class were reading the autobiography of Frederick Douglass and that picking cotton was one of the experiences that he wrote about in the autobiography," the suit states.
"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,'' according to the suit.
The matter got even more complicated when Pitt’s daughter revealed that her social-justice teacher asked the students to pick cotton to realize what it "feels like to be a slave". While she was not forced to participate, she had to watch other students doing so, according to the suit. SW kept it a secret as she was afraid that if she discussed the matter with someone her teachers will punish her.
The district previously responded to the matter after the local media covered the story. "When school administrators became aware of a parent's concern about the cotton plant, they responded immediately by removing the plant," the school said in a statement, according to the suit.
The LAUSD's statement represents an acknowledgment that the school district recognized that Laurel Span School's Cotton-Picking Project, as explained to Pitts and the school students, was discriminatory and harmful to the students, the suit alleges. "The district's response was a lie to cover up the discriminatory conduct," the suit states.