Bronx principal faces protests after reportedly barring Black history lessons

The principal reportedly nixed a lesson plan about Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

On Monday, a group of about 25 parents and activists will protest after a principal reportedly barred a teacher from giving students Black history lessons.

Principal Patricia Catania of Intermediate School 224 reportedly told English teacher Mercedes Liriano last week that she could not teach planned Black history lessons. Liriano had planned to teach about the Harlem Renaissance as well as Frederick Douglass‘ writings, according to the New York Daily News.

Racism in Bronx schools

Among the parents joining the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice for the protests, which are planned to be held at the opening bell as well as when the school day ends, are parents from Middle School 118 in the Bronx.

At that middle school, Patricia Cummings was accused of singling out Black students during a lesson on slavery. She reportedly told the students to lie on the floor and even went so far as to step on their backs in a strange lesson on the horrors of the slave trade.

According to the protesting parents and activists, the two recent incidents show that the schools in the area have a racism problem.

“We will be at … 224 to show support for those parents and to show that this is clearly a systemic issue,” said Natasha Capers, a Brooklyn mother of two who is also coordinating the protests, according to the Daily News. “The mayor said that what happened at … 118 is an isolated incident, but what happened at … 224 proves otherwise.”

“I worry about how much this is happening in other schools,” Annagine Lewis of the Parent Action Committee said. “Mayor de Blasio needs to address this issue and make cultural competency and anti-bias training a central part of his educational agenda moving forward.”

Rev. Kevin McCall, crisis director at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, called for the principal’s removal at the protest.

“We demand that she be removed today; if not, we turn up the heat and do what we have to do by any means necessary,” McCall said. “She will learn a quick black history lesson on the power of organizing against taking away students’ right to learn.”