HOLLYWOOD HILLS—A woman is suing the Board of Education and Los Angeles Unified School District on behalf of her daughter for allegedly causing emotional distress from what was reported to be a culturally insensitive school project. The civil rights suit was filed on Wednesday, August 10. 

Rashunda Pitts stated that the defendants discriminated against her daughter, who has only been identified as S.W., when the school she was attending initiated a cotton-picking project that accompanied the students reading on the notable abolitionist Frederick Douglass.  S.W., who is now 14, attended Lauren Span School in Hollywood in 2017.

Pitts saw a cotton field located at the front of the school one day when she was dropping off her daughter and spoke to the Assistant Principal Brian Wisniewski for more information. He stated that the students were reading an autobiography about Fredrick Douglass and that the field was to replicate “a real-life experience of what it was like to be a slave by picking cotton themselves.”  

“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,” the suit states.

“She [S.W.] has uncontrollable anxiety attacks and has experienced bouts of depression when she thinks about the cotton-picking project,” according to the suit. S.W. did have a conversation with her instructor about the project and was not forced to participate in the project. The student still had to watch her peers participate as part of the learning experience. 

According to reports, S.W. was reluctant to have a discussion with the instructor about the project for fear of retaliation.   

The LAUSD did not ask for parents permission or their opinions on the instructional activity before it was implemented. Once the school discovered parents’ concerns they immediately removed the cotton picking project.  

The suit is asking for unspecified damages and also accuses negligence.