Student pressured to play cotton-picking game; Family demands $10M from APS

A Black middle school student is accusing his substitute teacher of forcing him to pick cotton with his nose during a classroom game. The family has now sent a demand letter requesting $10 million from Arlington Public Schools.

On February 8th, 2023, Sidney Rousey Jr. who is an eighth grader at Gunston Middle School in Arlington, Virginia says he was pressured by his substitute teacher whose name has not been released to play a game called "nose dive."

Sidney’s mother, Keisha Kirkland, says she was appalled when she heard what happened.

"I couldn’t believe it and my mouth just dropped," said Rousey.

She told FOX 5 the game is racist and offensive.

"African Americans had to pick cotton during slavery. And it is a disgrace to have an African American child put it on his face with Vaseline, to me, it’s disgraceful. It’s a smack in our face and it says they do not care about our history," said Kirkland.

Sidney’s family is now demanding Arlington Public Schools pay $10 million. According to the demand letter, Sidney continues to face harassment, discrimination, and denial of educational equality.

"You can’t put a number on what he went through," said Rousey.

Sidney still goes to Gunston Middle School. His mother says the bullying, pain, and suffering her son endures is a struggle each and every day.

 "I think it’s worse than an attack because if you get attacked, those bruises disappear. This is under the surface so you can’t see it, only he can feel it," said Kirkland.

Former Virginia Lieutenant Governor and the family’s attorney, Justin Fairfax, is sending a strong message to the people responsible for allowing this incident to happen in the first place.

"Stop the cruelty. Stop the cruelty. We’ve seen too much of this in our society, in our schools, and you as a school system of all places should not be modeling that cruelty."

 Arlington Public Schools has 30 days to respond to the demand letter. FOX 5 DC reached out to the school district via e-mail and they replied saying they can’t comment at this time.