Teacher denies he made Black students pick seeds from cotton

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) – A white school teacher in Rochester accused of telling his class of mostly Black students to pick seeds out of cotton during a history lesson said in a lawsuit that allegations against him are false.

Patrick Rausch said in a lawsuit filed Friday that he brought a bag of unprocessed cotton into a seventh-grade social studies classroom in April to demonstrate how difficult it was to pick cotton seeds out by hand. But he said he made it clear that he was not requiring any students to touch the cotton and remove the seeds. It was voluntary, according to the lawsuit.

Rausch claims two parents of students in the class soon after began a social media campaign against him by posting false statements, including an allegation that he forced Black students to handle the cotton while white students could return to their laptops. The lawsuit said it’s also untrue that he made a student put on handcuffs and that he referred to himself as "Massah."

The lawsuit names the two parents, the not-for-profit social justice group Save Rochester Inc. and the executive director, Michael Johnson. The lawsuit said Save Rochester hosted a meeting at which "false allegations against Rausch continued to be made."

In a prepared statement, Johnson said, "while I have been advised to issue no comment at this time, my heart certainly aches for the children impacted by what they perceive to be flagrant acts of racism and hateful manipulation."

The Associated Press was not able to reach the two parents Wednesday evening for comment.

Rausch had been placed on administrative leave, according to the lawsuit.