Thursday, April 15

Teacher resigns who made racist comments on Zoom call


(CNN) β€” A California teacher resigned from her position after a call from Zoom with a student and his mother. The teacher thought the call was over and said her student had learned to lie and make excuses, calling parents “pieces of shit” and saying “that’s what black people do,” according to lawyers for Mother.

Now, the student’s mother, Katura Stokes, has submitted a pre-lawsuit claim, a pre-lawsuit, to the school district to obtain monetary compensation for emotional distress, defamation, neglect and discrimination, according to Stokes’s attorneys and a copy of the predemand.

The sixth-grader, Stokes’ son, had struggled since his school transitioned to online learning – last year – at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, his lawyers say.

Stokes reached out to school officials at the Desert Willow Magnet Academy of Fine Arts, Science and Technology in Palmdale, California, about 50 km from Los Angeles, for help, according to a statement from Taylor & Ring, the law signing that represents Stokes.

The teacher scheduled a call from Zoom for Jan.20 with Stokes and her son, who was not identified, and worked with him on recent assignments, according to the pre-trial claim. At the end of the call, the teacher assured her that she was up to date, the claim says.

“Given her son’s difficulties, Ms. Stokes was very pleased to hear this,” the claim reads.

After the video conference, the teacher did not end Zoom’s call and made comments to another person on the video, which caught Stokes’s attention, the statement said. This prompted Stokes to record what she and her son listened to for nearly 30 minutes, she says, because she couldn’t believe what she was hearing and thought no one would believe her otherwise.

“This is egregious,” David Garcia, a spokesman for the Palmdale School District, told CNN. “This is a shocking event and the Palmdale School District will not tolerate any racial behavior, whether recorded or not.”

The school district has not named the teacher; however, the pre-lawsuit notice of claim identifies her as Kimberly Newman, her son’s sixth grade science teacher. Garcia said the district has not received the formal pre-lawsuit complaint as of Wednesday morning.

CNN has reached out to the teacher’s attorney, but has received no response.

Stokes and his attorneys filed the pre-lawsuit claim “in an effort to shed light on an educational system and a district that creates uneven educational experiences for its minority students,” according to the press release.

“The horrible comments the teacher made in the video are truly heartbreaking for a mother and her young son,” said John C. Taylor, one of Stokes’ attorneys. β€œIt is unthinkable for an educator to mock and belittle this family, and there is no doubt that this incident has marked them. All children have the right to an educational experience free from discrimination and this video has demonstrated what minority students often face behind the scenes today.

CNN has reached out to Stokes, but Taylor said he does not want to comment further at this time.

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What the videos show about the racist attack

In a series of five blurry clips varying in length, provided by Stokes’ attorneys, the teacher can be heard explaining the interaction between her and Stokes to an off-camera man. It is unclear what happened before or after the videos provided by Stokes’ attorney.

In the videos, the teacher talks about having difficulty communicating with her students’ parents, calling multiple times with no answer, although the teacher never mentions Stokes by name.

“These parents are fucking liars,” says the teacher in a video.

I mean these parents, that’s the kind of my **** they are. Black She is Black. They are a family of blacks, “he says in another clip.

“Your son has learned to lie to everyone and make excuses,” says the teacher in a video.

“Are you serious?” Stokes can be heard whispering to herself as she listens.

“How it teaches you to make excuses that nothing is your fault,” continues the teacher. This is what black people do. This is what black people do. Whites do it too, but blacks do it much more. ‘

Stokes called the principal of Desert Willow’s Magnet Academy of Fine Arts, Science and Technology while the teacher was still openly talking about Zoom, and the principal told the teacher that her audio and video were on, according to Garcia.

“This is something we take very seriously and in a matter of minutes we placed the teacher on paid administrative leave as part of a process related to such a situation and within days he was no longer working with the district,” he said.

When the school arranged an interview to begin investigating the incident the next day, “the teacher made a statement that they would rather give up going through this and walk through the door,” Garcia said.

Two days later, Garcia said, he submitted his resignation.

“This video clearly shows that there are uneven educational experiences for minority students,” said Neil Gehlawat, another Stokes attorney. “Like many parents whose children have struggled to transition to online education during the pandemic, Ms. Stokes sought help and in return found that her child was being treated unfairly because of the color of his skin.”

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