Fierce

Teachers and Principal of Predominately Black and Brown Students Bring Noose to School

Four teachers, and the principal, were seen holding a noose in a school office at Palmdale, California (outside of Los Angeles), after a photo of them circulated social media. The four teachers and the principal of Summerwind Elementary School were placed on leave but not fired.

Following the incident the Superintendent of Schools, Raul Maldonado issued a statement meant to reassure parents, “I am appalled that this incident occurred. “I am committed to the Palmdale Promise’s values of equity, integrity, and multiculturalism, and I know that most of the district believe[s] in the same values the Promise upholds.” However, parents remain concerned about these apparently racist acts and a lack of diversity and sensitivity in their district.

Parent Shaka Phillips, “The integrity of the school is completely compromised. To the black community, a noose is a weapon, a symbol of slavery and lynching.”

A school environment that somehow encourages, or normalizes joking about a noose by teachers, is especially concerning in a school where the student body of is 18% Black, 65% Latino, and 9% White. Summerwind, like most elementary schools in the US, is staffed mostly by white teachers and administrators.

This is true for elementary and high schools all over the United States. The National Center for Educational Statistics found during the 2014-2015 school year that the overwhelming majority of teachers teaching in Elementary and Secondary schools are white: 80%. Individual schools are not mandated to make public the diversity (lack of diversity) of their teachers. They are mandated to make public their student demographics and are even given high ratings for the diversity of their student body.

Meanwhile, data shows that increasing teacher diversity can improve student success and reduce dropout rates.

Schools may be slow to reform but parents at Summerwind wasted no time mobilizing a protest outside the school on May 9. They protested outside the school until the teachers in the photo were removed from classrooms. The principal in the photo, Linda Brandts, was herself, not on campus that day. The four teachers were, eventually, sent home per the demands of organized parents.

In various reports about the Palmdale school’s noose incident, community members are calling for a variety of reforms and citing incidences like this one as a reason why many are leaving the district. Some believe the incident has created an opportunity for teaching and learning, but many want racist teachers fired. “We drop our kids off with the idea that we are sending them to a culturally competent institution for learning. We think that we’re sending them to a school; they’re safe,” said Breyson Clemmons, “Never do we think we’re sending them to a plantation where they got nooses hanging up, and holding on to nooses. Taking pictures and smiling, where’s the humor?”

Others are in disbelief, Community activist Miguel Coronado, whose wife works for the District, said he couldn’t believe it when he saw the picture.

An unnamed teacher who works at the school reportedly said, before the incident, that the predominately white teachers are a problem.

Twitter user @davitydave expressed his outrage by pointing out there is no way in 2019 that educators can claim innocence. He calls their actions “racist AF.”

Telemundo52 News Reporter, Dinorah Perez, tweeted about the story by quoting a parent from Summerwind Elementary. The parent, like many others, expressed worry and fear about bringing her child to school.

@techSMIF, a former resident of Palmdale, where the incident took place, cites people like those trolling the comments about the incident as the reason he’d never move back to that city.

Based on reports by residents, and former residents, the city of Palmdale, or at least the schools, are inequitable places where the seats of power are reserved for the privileged few, and where some of those with power abuse it. Not unlike the Idaho teachers, who last Halloween, posed in photos wearing a Mexican border wall costume that said, “Make America Great Again.”

We send our kids here to school to get educated and we trust the teachers and want them to feel safe,” she said. “When you get a picture like that you don’t trust the school. You don’t want your kid coming back here. It shows what they think about us. Even if it was a joke and it wasn’t supposed to surface and it did, it backfired. You’re not supposed to be joking about stuff like that. Because still to this day it happens.”

White Parent Shouts ‘Why Didn’t You Stay In Mexico?” At Father During School Meeting To Address Racist Incidents

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White Parent Shouts ‘Why Didn’t You Stay In Mexico?” At Father During School Meeting To Address Racist Incidents

MLive / YouTube

Far too often we talk of stories about racist White people caught on video berating people of color or calling police on them for mundane, everyday tasks. Unfortunately, this is another one of those stories but one with a level of irony that seems like it was completely lost on the man who hurled the racist insult.

Racism in the United States continues to tear apart communities – and, as this story shows, even in communities that are working to try and address the concerns of people most affected.

A viral video shows a Michigan dad asking a Latino man why he didn’t ‘stay in Mexico’ during a school meeting about racism.

A community meeting meant to address concerns over racism in a Michigan school district appeared to become proof of the problem after a white parent suggested to a Latino father that he shouldn’t have immigrated to the United States.

Adrian Iraola, who came to the U.S. from Mexico and whose now-grown children went through the schools in Saline, recalled his son’s experience of racism in the district.

“I went to his bedroom to say good night, and he was crying because of the abuse that he was enduring in this school system,” Iraola said at the school board meeting Monday in the largely-white district south of Ann Arbor.

Iraola was interrupted by a white parent, Tom Burtell, who said, “So why didn’t you stay in Mexico?”

Reactions from other parents in the room were mostly of shock and disgust.

The comment drew loud gasps and threw the February 3 meeting into pandemonium, with multiple parents yelling at the father to leave the meeting, some standing up, and one shouting, “That is disgusting.”

“That’s indicative of what our kids are experiencing: comments like that,” another father said.

However, at least one person seemed to come to Burtell’s defense saying that the meeting was a “platform for discussion,” to which Burtell responses, “That’s right.”

“Then explain yourself,” an audience member said to Burtell. “You interrupted [Iraola]. Take the mic.”

Iraola, still with mic in hand, then said, “He asked me a question, ‘Why didn’t I stay in Mexico?’ Because this is the greatest country in the world.”

But Burrell wasn’t done yet.

Credit: MLive.com / YouTube

During the meeting, Burtell also complained about discrimination being faced by white people.

“You think that … whites are the oppressors,” he said. “Here’s the evidence. You’ve got black racism all the time… try to be white and walk in a black neighborhood and see what happens.”

Even Burtell’s own son took to Facebook to call his father out for his racist comment.

Today my father asked a deliberately racist question at the Saline Area Schools diversity and inclusion meeting.His…

Posted by Matt Burtell on Monday, February 3, 2020

His comments were so provocative that Burtell’s son, Matt, condemned him in a Facebook post.

“Today my father asked a deliberately racist question at the Saline Area Schools diversity and inclusion meeting. His views of hate in no way represent my own,” Matt Burtell wrote. “I stand in solidarity with the refugees and immigrants of the world.”

The meeting was originally called to address racist bullying and taunts experienced by children at the school.

Credit: Nicole Hester / AP

The meeting had originally been organized to address instances of racism at high schools in the town of Saline, and a Latino father had taken the microphone to discuss how his son suffered from racist taunts in school.

This 13-Year-Old Boy’s Face Caught On Fire During A Science Class Demonstration

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This 13-Year-Old Boy’s Face Caught On Fire During A Science Class Demonstration

As a kid, one of the most exciting parts of science class is observing how certain chemicals react with each other—seeing how all the abstract information you’ve learned on paper manifests in real life. Of course, every school science lab is supposed to have an eye-wash station, a shower, a fire extinguisher, and other such safety tools in case something goes awry, and while accidents do happen, it is imperative that science demonstrations in the classroom be handled with extreme care. Although no hard evidence currently exists on how often school lab accidents occur—as no entity tracks them as a distinct category—scores of preventable incidents are reported every year.

Most recently, the case of 13-year-old Priest Rivera has been making headlines.

Credit: Instagram | CBSNews8

Rivera’s face and upper body were severely burned when his teacher mistakenly botched a science demonstration in June 2019, and his family has filed a lawsuit against San Diego’s Encinitas Union School District.

Last June, sixth-grade teacher Lori Feinberg fumbled a seemingly simple science demonstration called the “black snake experiment.” This experiment involves the mixing of baking soda, sugar, sand, and alcohol, which is then introduced to a flame in order to form of a “sugar snake.” (When the mixture of baking soda and sugar gets hot, it decomposes to create carbon dioxide gas. A lack of oxygen in the sugar from the combustion creates carbonate and water vapor; the carbonate is pushed out by the pressure from the carbon dioxide, and voila! A snake is born.)

“It wasn’t really working and the science teacher kept pouring more rubbing alcohol to make the flame build up more. It went wrong and blew up in my face,” Priest told CBS News 8. He explained that he had ignited, and his friends surrounded him saying, “He’s on fire!”

The lawsuit filed on December 30, 2019, claims that Feinberg “recklessly” performed the “dangerous” science experiment which involved alcohol and flames “in windy conditions.” It also alleges that Feinberg provided her students with neither safety instructions nor protective equipment (like safety glasses) before performing the “black snake” experiment. The complaint also cites “severe and permanent injuries to Priest,” alleging both negligence and negligent action and stating that “Feinberg and the District knew it was highly probable that injury could occur when conducting an experiment involving flames, but knowingly disregarded that risk.” The family is seeking an unspecified amount in damages for Priest’s present and future hospital bills.

Although, as mentioned above, no hard numbers currently exist to verify the frequency of school lab accidents, the American Chemical Society’s Division of Chemical Health and Safety is seeking out “reliable data.”

Credit: Facebook | John M. Mantel / Daily Mail

According to Scientific American, “surveys find incidents to be much more common in academic settings than in industrial labs”—and if university labs are seeing high numbers of injury and death, imagine how much less prepared public elementary, middle, and high school labs are likely to be.

Indeed, another student victim of a science experiment gone wrong was awarded $59.1 in damages from the New York Department of Education last July. Alonzo Yanes and classmate Julia Saltonstall were left with severe burns after a botched demonstration by a high school teacher in 2014. Science teacher Anna Poole attempted to conduct a “Rainbow Experiment,” a popular staple in high school chemistry classes due to its rapid and intense bursts of flame.

The Rainbow Experiment involves a variety of mineral salts and lit candles, usually placed in a line. An accelerant commonly used in the experiment is methanol, an extremely volatile liquid that shows how different salts produce distinct colors when burned. However, methanol also produces vapor clouds that can quickly spread flames (or, conversely, which can linger and be ignited by unwitting sparks later on). It was this substance that Poole used in her demonstration, pouring it out of a gallon-sized jug instead of a safer, smaller container.

Students said that she had only reached the second dish when a massive flame spread down the line of dishes and enveloped Yanes in flames, ultimately burning 30% of his body. Students also remarked that Poole was the only one in the room wearing safety goggles.

Rivera’s parents have addressed the school’s reticence to claim responsibility for what happened to their son, and the consensus within the scientific community is a similar one: almost all such incidents are preventable by improving oversight and supervision. They are not simply the consequence of random misfortune.

According to chemical safety expert Neal Langerman, “The problem of school lab danger lies in management responsibility.” With proper training, appropriate safety measures (like wearing protective clothing), and regular procedural oversight, accidents like those that have affected countless young students (as well as teachers) all over the country can be avoided in the future.