New York Teacher Pays $75K For Mock Slave Auction Harm

By Elizabeth Daley | February 9, 2024, 6:42 PM EST ·

A northern New York teacher will pay $75,000 for holding a mock slave auction of Black students in her classroom, settling a federal suit over a lesson a 10-year-old student's mother said emotionally damaged her son.

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A New York teacher who held a mock slave auction of Black students in her classroom will pay $75,000 to settle a federal lawsuit over a lesson that emotionally damaged a 10-year-old student. (

Retired Watertown City School District educator Patricia Bailey agreed, per an order Monday, to pay for the damage her actions caused a Black student, after failing to garner insurance coverage for his family's civil rights litigation in 2022.

The student's mother, Nicole Dayes, accused the school district and Bailey of making her son Z.D., feel ashamed enough to want to change his skin color following the racially disparaging classroom exercise. The fake auction involved white students pretending to bid on Black classmates, with Bailey instructing that once purchased, the Black students should call their peers "master" and "not try to escape because they would be chased down and violence would be done to them," a 2020 investigation by the New York State Attorney General's Office found.

"The teacher's reenactment had a profoundly negative effect on all students present," the state investigators said, noting that Black students were particularly damaged by the experience.

In a letter Monday, Bailey's attorney, Zachary C. Oren, asked a federal judge to seal a slew of settlement-related documents. He wrote that since a confidentiality and nondisparagement provision in the settlement "was negotiated very intensely by the parties," it showed that sealing was warranted since "confidentiality was certainly bargained for in the deal."

That provision, requested by Bailey, would require either party to pay the other $10,000 per incident if it was found that settlement details were leaked to anyone. The fee would also apply if either party was found to have made disparaging comments about the other.

Another document Oren wanted private featured his request that the term "mock slave auction" be removed from the settlement agreement. "While that is plaintiff's position as to what occurred, defendant Bailey has always and still does contest this fact. Accordingly, defendant Bailey suggests that the words 'events which occurred' be used instead," he wrote.

The settlement granted by the court ends the dispute over "events which occurred."

Representatives of the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comments Friday.

Patricia Bailey is represented by Zachary C. Oren of the Law Office of Zachary C. Oren.

Nicole Dayes is represented by Timothy J. Fennell of Amdursky Pelky Law Firm.

The case is Dayes v. Watertown City School District et al., case number 5:20-cv-00964, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.

--Editing by Leah Bennett.

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