Is there a pattern of racist behavior in public school classrooms across America?
I’m not an alarmist, nor an expert in polling, and even though this may be a small sampling, it’s still worth considering these critical facts:
Last week, a white Florida teacher was suspended after an investigation revealed that David Swinyar used the N-word repeatedly to his 7th and 8th graders while advising his female students not to date African-American boys “because they are not worth it.”
Swinyar teaches math at Kernan Middle School in Jacksonville, Florida where 22 percent of the school ‘s students are African-American.
Here’s what Swinyar reportedly told his students last year:
“If your boyfriend says bad things to you and/or treats you wrong, that means he’s acting like a n—–,” Swinyar said. “You all should not be dating all these different African-American boys because they are not worth it.”
And in a reported separate incident, students said Swinyar made other racist remarks about African-Americans during an argument with a student.
“If my daughter was dating someone who used the ‘f’ word, I wouldn’t have any respect for that n—–,” a student recalled Swinyar saying, according to a news report.
Earlier this month, another white Florida middle school teacher reportedly hosted a white nationalist podcast and bragged about bringing her white supremacist beliefs into the classroom.
Dayanna Volitich, a 25-year-old social studies teacher at Crystal River Middle School, wrote her racist podcast under the alias “Tiana Dalichov” in an attempt to conceal her bigoted ideology from school administrators.
Last month, a New York City teacher, Patricia Cummings, who is white, walked on the backs of Black students as part of a slavery lesson during Black History Month. Cummings said she wanted to show Black students what slavery felt like.
Last year, a white Virginia grade-school teacher asked African-American students to pretend to be slaves and pick cotton during a history lesson while white students acted as upper class citizens.
For at least the past seven years, these are real, tangible examples of white teachers, who for unknown personal reasons, foster some form of disdain for the Black students they teach. (And these are the ones we know about.)
And let me pose this question: When teachers are suspended and fired for perceived racist lessons dating back six, seven years, or more, why wouldn’t teachers today realize the racial implications and steer clear of similar exercises?
These examples, however, represent only a fraction of the bright, humble and caring white teachers – unsung heroes – who spend countless hours each week preparing Black students for the future. I know plenty of dedicated white teachers who I admire for their steadfast commitment to all their students.
But the teachers who bring their racist views into the nation’s classrooms – those who use the N-word repeatedly in front of students, those who physically abuse students in a twisted attempt to teach lessons of slavery, those who instruct white students to buy Black students in Civil War slavery exercises– have no place in any classroom in this country.
Which brings me to background checks.
The deep-rooted racism that some of these teachers harbor didn’t start when they first walked through the door of their respective schools. It started long ago and school administrators have a responsibility to conduct more thorough background checks to stop racist teachers before they poison – and abuse — their students with bigotry.
In the case of David Swinyar, here’s a teacher who used the N-word both to describe his Black students and said it directly to one of his Black students. And he went further – showing his hatred for Black males by warning female students to stay away from them.
Still, Swinyar only received a suspension.
Swinyar should be fired – immediately. This Florida school district should send a message to the state—and the nation – that it will not tolerate outright racism and total contempt for Black students and Black people.
I’ve heard some say teachers like Swinyar represent isolated incidents but how many isolated incidents does it take before someone acknowledges a pattern of racial intolerance in our schools?
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