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Teacher Goes on Racist Rant, Not Realizing Zoom Was On

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The teacher, Kimberly Newman, has since resigned from Desert Willow Fine Arts, Science and Technology Magnet Academy in Palmdale, California. The school district may also be potentially facing a lawsuit.

What We Know:

  • Katura Stokes set up a parent-teacher meeting with Newman on Jan. 20 after her sixth-grade son had issues with remote learning. Stokes’ son and Newman completed a few assignments together, and Stokes was relieved to hear her son was caught up with everything. However, at the end of the Zoom call, Newman forgot to end the meeting for all attendees. She left her camera and microphone one. Unconscious of her guests, Newman began to spew racially insensitive comments.

“Two kinds of pieces of s***. They’re black, he’s black,” Newman told her husband in one part of the call.

  • Stokes began to record the rest of the meeting as soon as she noticed what Newman was doing. The video exposes Newman writing and sending an email to the boy’s other teachers and administrators. In the email, she was blatantly mocking and belittling Stokes. In another instance, Newman insulted Stokes’ parenting. She asserted that she and several other teachers tried to reach Stokes multiple times to discuss her child’s progress.

 “She’s answered her phone for the first time this entire year. I mean these parents, that’s what kind of piece of s— they are,” spouted Newman.

  • In her rant, Newman said to her husband that Stokes’ son was lying and making excuses about his technical difficulties. She proceeds to claim that this is what he has been taught to do because “this is what Black people do.”
  • Stokes decided to film the computer screen because she thought if she didn’t document it, no one would believe the comments’ disgracefulness. She also called the school’s principal during Newman’s tirade. The principal was just as shocked and phoned her. When Newman answered and was investigated about her remarks, she denied them. Yet, she ended the Zoom session.
  • School officials immediately put Newman on administrative leave. When she came in for a meeting two days later, she informed them she wanted to resign and left the office. The Palmdale School District has 45 days to file a normal response to Stokes’ accusations. She is asking for monetary for negligence, defamation, and civil rights violations. After the officials place the response, the parent has six months to file a lawsuit.
  • In addition, officials have said Newman’s actions abhorred them. District officials are sticking with Stokes, assuring that the “Palmdale School District has never and will never tolerate any racist behavior or speech.”
  • According to the Los Angeles Times, this is not the first time the district has been in hot water. In 2019, the principal of Summerwind Elementary School captured a photo of four teachers smiling while holding a small noose. The investigation concluded that the teachers did not understand the symbolism behind the lasso. The professors were put on paid leave and eventually left the district. The principal also was taken out of her position.

Stokes is also demanding that the school district improves its racial awareness training. This is crucial for Palmdale’s educational system, as enrollment is 75 percent Latino, 15 percent Black and 10 percent white, and other races. Stokes also says she is afraid this incident has scarred her and her son, as they feel they will never be treated fairly in an academic setting.

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Education

Furman University Unveils Statue of its First Black Student

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Joseph Vaughn attended Furman University back in 1965.

What We Know:

  • A statue of Vaughn, the school’s first African-American student, was revealed on Friday, April 16th, 2021, in Greenville, SC. The statue was modeled after a photo of Vaughn walking up to the school’s library. Vaughn died in 1991 and served as president of the Greenville and Southeast NAACP student chapters. He graduated Cum Laude in 1968 before becoming a teacher in Greenville County.
  • He also served as the president of both the Greenville County Association of Teachers and the South Carolina Education Association. Qwameek Bethea, a senior student and president of Furman’s NAACP chapter was the one who convinced the university to build the statue. Vaughn was not originally welcomed by everyone on campus when he became a student. Vaughn allegedly found a noose hanging from his doorknob one morning shortly after he arrived.
  • The Vaughn statue was two years in the making and is part of a larger movement the University began in 2017. The Task Force on Slavery and Justice was created out of inspiration from an op-ed written in 2016. The piece was written by a student of the school and notably questioned the University’s legacy. Vaughn’s statue is one of a dozen recommendations the group proposed to the University for approval.
  • The school expanded its Joseph Vaughn scholarship for students in 2018 and renamed one of its dormitories after Clark Murphy, a black groundskeeper at the school, in 2020. Vaughn is the first person of color whose likeness is featured prominently on the Furman campus. The original unveiling of the statue was planned to be in January but was rescheduled due to high rates of coronavirus around the community at the time.

Members of Vaughn’s family showed up for the occasion as well, noting that Vaughn stood for “an instrument of change.”

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Education

College Student, 12, To Major In Astronomical Science To Become NASA Engineer

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A gifted 12-year-old is now a soon-to-be college student

What We Know:

  • Alena Wicker will be virtually attending Arizona State University this May after she graduates high school. The young Texas native plans to dual major in astronomical and planetary science and chemistry to further her dream of working as an engineer at NASA. 
  • Her mother, Daphne McQuarter, told Good Morning America that her daughter’s natural talent first garnered her attention when she started playing with Legos. Her passion for building, rearranging, and creating new lego projects began when she was 4-years-old. 
  • Aside from continuing to create Lego masterpieces, like the Taj Mahal, Alena has also created a number of programs to help other young women of color. Her website Brown Stem Girl acknowledges the racial and gender disparities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields and provides resources for girls of color interested in STEM. Among other projects, Alena plans to debut a children’s book soon called “Brainiac World” to discourage kids from teasing and also has her own podcast about featuring women in STEM
  • Despite being a child prodigy, Alena insists she’s just like other kids. She loves hanging out with her friends, going to the movies, watching TV, singing, and running track and field. She knows her journey through college might be challenging, but Alena is not one to be discouraged. “All my life, people are trying to hold me down because of my age,” she stated.  

We’re excited to see what Alena’s future will hold!

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Texas Students Disciplined for ‘Slave-Trading Game’ That Auctioned off Classmates

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A group of students at a Texas school was disciplined for setting up an online slave-trading forum where they pretended to auction off their classmates of a different race.

What We Know:

  • A student at the Aledo Independent School District posted a screenshot of the game on the social media site Snapchat. In the photo, a group chat with the name “Slave Trade” can be seen. One student indicated they would pay $1 for a classmate, who “would be better if his hair wasn’t so bad.”
  • In a statement issued Monday, the school district said it discovered that students at Daniel Ninth Grade Campus had engaged in cyberbullying and racial harassment over two weeks ago. The school district stated they began an “immediate and thorough investigation” with authorities into the matter.
  • The district held conversations with the student body at once and communicated with the students and parents of those involved. The Aledo ISD wanted to make it clear that “statements and conduct that targets a student because of his or her race is not only prohibited but also has a profound impact on the victims.”
  • Tony Crawford, a local activist, says the situation is another example of an ever-growing list of incidents that get swept under the rug. In March, a Mississippi teacher drew criticism for a homework assignment that asked students to “pretend they’re slaves.” Many called the assignment “tone-deaf” for asking students to write letters to their families back in Africa.

The district did not specify what discipline the students received, nor how many were involved in the incident.

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