Students at Farmington High School left the building Thursday, Feb. 10, after a female substitute teacher used the phrase “cotton picking” to describe a Black male student.
According to district administration, the substitute was immediately removed from the building and will not work in the district again.
Superintendent Chris Delgado said the student touched something on the substitute’s desk, and was then told to get his “cotton picking hands” off the desk. The student reported this to building administrators, who then removed the substitute from the property.
“I really want to commend the student who was the victim of this,” Delgado said. “He and another student reported this to a trusted adult … The fact that the students knew a trusted adult and school official would handle this says a lot about the efforts to make relationships with kids.”
Students could be seen walking outside Farmington High School Thursday afternoon chanting “Black Lives Matter.” Students also met with Delgado outside the district’s central office.
“I wanted to let them know their superintendent hears them and supports them,” he said. “They have the right to go to a school and be an environment that is devoid of racism.”
According to the superintendent, the substitute had worked in the district before. He said it’s difficult to screen someone’s prejudices before they enter a job.
“We can screen and background check as much as possible, and we can fingerprint for criminal instances,” Delgado said. “What we can’t do is screen what’s in the hearts and minds of people.
“Let’s just be clear: If anyone harbors those kind of racist sentiments, do not apply to Farmington Public Schools.”
This is one of numerous instances in previous years the district has dealt with instances of racism. Some have alleged previous administrations have held racial prejudice, and the district has been sued on racial prejudice allegations, and some former staff work in a nonprofit intended to support minority students because they feel those students are treated unfairly. Most recently, an optional equity challenge the district offered to staff in late 2021 came under fire from right-wing protesters calling the challenge “critical race theory.”
Delgado said he thinks racism is a societal issue, not one unique to the Farmington community. At a recent school board meeting where diversity efforts were targeted by critics, many community members spoke on how they value Farmington and Farmington Hills’ diversity.