ACLU of Washington statement on Spokane School District’s release of the independent investigation of the “cotton picking” lesson at Sacajawea Middle School

News Release: 
Friday, July 30, 2021

SPOKANE – The Spokane School District released an independent investigation of a complaint by Brandi Feazell on behalf of her children Emzayia and Zyeshauwne, who reported being embarrassed and angry after students were asked to pick and clean cotton in their social studies class. As two of the three Black students in the class that day, they felt singled out in a lesson which referenced slavery and whipping slaves for failing to properly clean cotton.

The investigation sustained allegations that the lesson negatively impacted the students and that Assistant Principal Taylor Skidmore failed to initiate a formal investigation and instead defended the teacher and offered to separate the girls from the rest of their class. The report was not released with adequate plans to address the findings and safely return the students to the classroom.

ACLU of Washington Youth Policy Counsel Kendrick Washington II had this reaction:

“While we appreciate the Spokane School District’s expressed desire to work with and solicit input from community, it is irresponsible of the district to release the independent investigator’s report without a plan to address the specific harmful experiences the girls endured. In doing so, the school district is falling short of the promise of the equity resolution that it passed last summer and failing its students in the process. This represents a continuation of the mishandling of this complaint and raises the question of whether the school district has learned anything about how racially insensitive lessons and practices impact students and families.”

Brandi Feazell, mother of the students had this reaction:

“My daughters, and every student in that school, should be able to go to class knowing that they will learn in a safe and nurturing environment. They should also know that their school district will take complaints of racial discrimination and inequity seriously.”