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Black Parent Sues Los Angeles School District After Child Forced To Pick Cotton In School Project

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Aug. 19 2022, Published 10:42 a.m. ET

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A Los Angeles Black parent is suing American's second-largest school district after she says her daughter was taught about slavery by the school having children pick cotton, RadarOnline.com has learned.

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Rashunda Pitts filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles Unified, a Los Angeles school district, and staff members at Laurel Span school in reference to the incident that humiliated her daughter and left the now-14-year-old with extreme emotional stress and anxiety, according to the lawsuit.

The cotton-picking incident took place in October 2017, when Pitts noticed a cotton field at her daughter's Hollywood school. According to the lawsuit, Pitts contacted school officials, who told her that the field of cotton was grown to give students "real life experience" of slavery to the class, which was reading the autobiography of Frederick Douglass.

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When Pitts told the school that the idea was "culturally insensitive," school officials agreed, the lawsuit stated. However, school officials said they could not remove the field within 24 hours as Pitts requested but that they would do it by the end of the week or the following week, according to the lawsuit.

However, the lawsuit claims the school misrepresented the conversation in a statement to the press and sought to "cover up the discriminatory conduct."

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“We regret that an instructional activity in the garden at Laurel School was construed as culturally insensitive,” the school said, adding that “tending to the garden” with fruits and vegetables had been a longtime tradition and was not used for historical reenactments. “When school administrators became aware of a parent’s concern about the cotton plant, they responded immediately by removing the plant.”

Pitts' daughter has said she had become "quiet and reserved" leading up to the incident, and she said she was reluctant to tell her mom as she feared her teachers would be upset and possibly "retaliate," the lawsuit states.

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The girl told her mother that she was not required to pick cotton, though she had to watch others do so and “discussion of the project in school terrified her and she [was] horrified at the idea of having to ‘pick cotton.’” According to the lawsuit, the school did not notify parents of the project.

Pitts claims the project and the school's response were discrimination against her daughter on the basis of race and sex. “She has uncontrollable anxiety attacks and has [experienced] bouts of depression when she thinks about the Cotton Picking Project,” the lawsuit states.

According to The Guardian, neither Pitts nor the Los Angeles Unified school district immediately responded to requests for comment.

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