For the second time since October, a middle school history teacher at Sage Academy Magnet School in California has been placed on leave. Why, you might ask? As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the teacher, who has worked for the Palmdale School District for six years and has tenure, has been accused of making racist comments to her students, including that she wants to “bring back” slavery and noting her support of Donald Trump and his border wall. This would obviously be abhorrent and inappropriate no matter what the racial makeup of the school, but the Times reports that about 70% of students in the district are Latinx.
In specifics, students allege that the teacher’s classroom has Trump mugs and posters. One student claims the teacher failed him in spite of his doing the work and that his mother even tried to change his school schedule because of it. Some students alleged that the racist comments were even directed at them.
“She says we don't belong in this country. She would say that we would use the government for welfare and food stamps, we would take White people's jobs,” Yaretzy Martinez, a student, said as reported by ABC 7.
The icing on the cake? Students allege that the teacher even talked about torturing students.
How did the school handle all of this? As the Times reports, the district first hired an independent investigator following allegations after students and families complained in October. The teacher was permitted to return back to the classroom on Dec. 13. It’s unclear what disciplinary action was taken against her at that time. Not long after that, however, the school received fresh complaints from parents that students said she was again making unsavory comments.
“She would always talk about Donald Trump. She would make comments about how it was right for him to build a wall and to block all the immigrants out of this country,” student Jossylin Villegas stated.
A specific explanation hasn’t been given for her now second removal from the classroom, but Ryan Beardsley, assistant superintendent of human resources at the Palmdale School District, confirmed to the Times the alleged remarks were again “racial in nature.”
Obviously, we’re missing a lot of answers and context, which Beardsley says goes back to the situation being under investigation. “Employees are entitled to contractual rights, labor law and due process,” Beardsley told the Times.
Counseling services will be available to students at the school.
While it’s unclear what will happen with the unidentified teacher, the students who participated in a recent press conference are clear about one thing: They don’t want her back in any classroom.
“We don’t want her at any other school because we don’t think she’s ready to teach,” 13-year-old Martinez, who skipped the teacher’s class because of the alleged racist remarks, said. “She said what she said, and she’s not going to change her mind.”
A number of teachers have come under fire for allegedly hateful comments or behavior in recent years. A white teacher was placed on leave after a video of her racist, homophobic rant went viral online. Another teacher thought her racist tweets directed to Trump were private and quickly learned that they were, in fact, not. A teacher lost their job over a racist rant of theirs about Colin Kaepernick.
These views would be horrifying coming from anyone, but educators have an enormous responsibility—and influence—over some of the most vulnerable people in the country.
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