A New Jersey school district is investigating a student’s complaint that a middle school teacher allegedly made the sounds of a cracking whip and kicked students’ feet during a lesson on slavery.
The complaint was brought against Lawrence Cuneo, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Toms River Intermediate East, according to Michael Kenny, a school district spokesman. The school, which has a majority-white enrollment, is in Toms River, a coastal town about 75 miles south of New York.
“Our district is undergoing a thorough investigation into this matter,” Kenny said. “As we comb through and further investigate the details of the alleged incident, we are keeping in mind that our curriculum has evolved to include more hands-on, authentic activities.”
Kenny said it “seems initially clear” Cuneo had no ill intent, “but that better judgment could/should have been used with regard to the alleged instructional methods, particularly as it pertains to recognizing the sensitivities of all students.”
Kenny said he could not comment on whether any action has or will be taken against Cuneo, saying it is a confidential personnel matter. Cuneo could not immediately be reached for comment.
Students were allegedly forced to pick cotton like slaves and lay on a dirty floor while Cuneo kicked them and made sounds resembling a whip cracking, the Asbury Park Press reported, citing one student’s social media post. The newspaper said it received screenshots of Instagram posts by the unnamed student’s mother.
“It’s good to be informed about slavery but making us clean and pick cotton and pretending to wip [sic] us? Are you nuts it’s 2020 not 1800 get it right,” the student’s post said.