Riverside educators have announced steps they have taken to confront a North High School teacher’s dressing up as a Native American and acting out a mock chant while teaching a math class.
Those steps have included emphasizing to North High teachers “the need to immediately address insensitivity and bias,” and providing content for events such as Halloween and Thanksgiving to make sure they are observed in an accurate historical context that respects various cultures, according to a statement from the Riverside Unified School District board and Superintendent Renee Hill.
The district also is “convening an action team” to develop a plan for expanding diversity, equity and inclusion training, the statement said.
As for the math teacher involved, she remains on leave, according to the statement, which was released late Friday, Nov. 5. The district has not confirmed her identity.
“Fact-finding will occur and after the fact-finding stage, decisions will be made regarding the correct process and steps to be taken,” the statement read. “Although the time that the process takes may be frustrating to some, there is no way to shortcut the process.”
The Oct. 19 incident in a North math class came to light when a video shot by a student was posted on social media and rapidly went viral. The video showed the teacher putting on a faux Native American headdress and dancing around a classroom, moving her arms in a chopping motion. In the video, which hit social media Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 20, and blew up on the internet, the teacher appears to be sharing with students the word “SohCahToa,” a mnemonic device used to help students remember an advanced mathematics concept.
The district is Riverside County’s second-largest public school system, with about 40,000 students.
Hill had previously denounced the videotaped action of the North teacher, calling it “highly insulting and marginalizing to Native Americans.”
The district stated that it will promptly address other actions taken by teachers in the future that “do not promote the District’s values of inclusivity and respect for all.”
The statement said district leaders met with North High School teachers and student government leaders, as well as the students who were in the class where the mock chant took place. Educators also met with people from local tribes, the district stated, and will collaborate with them to “design and offer professional learning” on Native American and Indigenous history and culture.
“As communicated previously, RUSD is deeply committed to implementing inclusive practices and policies that honor the rich diversity of our district and the greater region,” the statement said.