Riverside teacher who mocked Native Americans in video is fired

A Riverside High School teacher who was recorded impersonating Native Americans by wearing a fake headdress and singing during math class in October was fired last week after months of protests, defenders have said Native Americans.

Community members representing local tribes and some from out of state spoke at the Riverside School Board meeting last week and cheered when the board announced that an anonymous employee had been dismissed after a 4-1 vote behind closed doors. Riverside Unified School District officials have not confirmed the identity of the fired teacher.

The teacher has the right to be heard before a state board and can appeal the decision, which could take up to three years, district spokeswoman Diana Meza said.

The district previously said high school teacher John W. North was placed on leave while he investigates the incident.

“This was a victory for us because it shows that our voices have been heard,” said Dee Dee Manzanares Ybarra, director of the Southern California chapter of the American Indian Movement and president of the Rumšen Am:a Tur Tribe: Ataj Ohlone, who has attended school board meetings with other activists since the video became public.

“It was important not to have that person around the kids anymore, because of what she did,” Ybarra said, calling the teacher’s actions “a mockery of our people.”

The teacher’s video shows her singing a mnemonic device – ‘sohcahtoa’, often used to help students remember trigonometric functions – while stomping around the classroom, standing on desks, making chopping motions and, at one point, pretending to pray.

Native American activist Akalei Brown originally posted the video after receiving it from the student who recorded it. The video has amassed over 3 million views on Twitter and hundreds of thousands of interactions on Instagram.

Immediately after the video was released, members of the Native American community staged protests at the school, demanding the teacher’s dismissal and an apology.

Since then, district officials have met with local tribal councils and parents to make changes to the program and policies.

“Personally, it’s not about the individual teacher, whose behavior was clearly outrageous – it’s about these types of microaggressions that happen to indigenous and first people in this region that happen on a daily basis,” Mary said. Valdemar, co-chair of the Ethnic Studies Inland Empire. Coalition.

Any changes to a program should be done with input from the tribes that first lived on the land, Valdemar said.

Inspired by the classroom incident, Assemblyman James Ramos (D-Highland), a resident of the San Manuel Indian Reservation and a member of the Serrano/Cahuilla Tribe, said last month that he would introduce a bill to encourage school districts to collaborate with tribes in improving their programs.

“So few people understand the diversity of California’s early inhabitants,” Ramos said. “They speak different languages, use different musical instruments, practice different customs and traditions. Few know that many tribes were wiped out or nearly wiped out during the 1800s.”

After the school board vote was announced, Superintendent of Riverside Schools. Renee Hill said at the reunion that the programs would be changed to “ensure adequate representation of the area’s original inhabitants and Native Americans”, which drew renewed applause from the crowd.

“Our management strives to ensure accountability,” Hill said.

At previous school board meetings, Hill said the district would begin work on creating land recognition.

Ybarra and Valdemar are still asking the district and the teacher to issue a formal apology for the incident.

Nohemi M. Moore