The mother of a Black sixth-grader filed a damage claim Thursday against the Palmdale School District alleging a White teacher engaged in a profanity-laced, racially charged rant in unguarded moments following a Zoom session earlier this year with her son.
The claim, typically a precursor to a lawsuit, was filed by Katura Stokes on behalf of her 12-year-old son, who attends Desert Willow Fine Arts, Science and Technology Magnet Academy.
“The horrible comments the teacher made in the video are truly heartbreaking for a mother to hear and for her young son to hear,” said John Taylor, an attorney representing Stokes. “It’s unthinkable that an educator would mock and belittle this family, and there is no doubt that this incident has scarred them.
“All children are entitled to receive an educational experience free of discrimination, and this video has demonstrated what minority students often face behind the scenes today.”
“This video clearly shows that unequal educational experiences for minority students exist,” said Neil Gehlawat, another attorney representing Stokes. “Like many parents whose children have struggled to transition to online schooling during the pandemic, Ms. Stokes reached out for help — and, in return, she discovered that her son was being treated unfairly because of the color of his skin.”
Officials with the Palmdale School District did not return emails and phone calls Thursday seeking comment.
Struggled with online platform
Stokes alleges in the complaint that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, her son has struggled in accessing and using the Palmdale School District’s online platform to complete class assignments.
Administrators at Desert Willow told Stokes she should reach out to each of her son’s teachers — including science instructor Kimberly Newman — for help in utilizing the platform, according to the complaint.
On Jan. 20, Newman organized a Zoom call from her home with Stokes and her son to work through issues about accessing the online platform. By the end of the Zoom session, Newman assured Stokes’ son that he was all caught up with his assignments.
“Given her son’s struggles, Ms Stokes was very pleased to hear this,” the complaint states. “What followed was something Ms. Stokes and her son could have never imagined.”
Newman failed to exit the Zoom session and then engaged in a racist, inflammatory rant for more than 30 minutes, the complaint alleges.
The continuation of the Zoom call, which was recorded by Stokes, shows Newman drafting and sending an email to the boy’s teachers and school district administrators mocking and denigrating Stokes, says the complaint.
Newman also can be apparently heard in the video telling her husband, “Two kinds of pieces of s***. They’re black, he’s black.” She then goes on to say that Stokes’ son has learned to lie to everyone and make excuses and that “this is what black people do.”
Newman, who was reached by phone Thursday night, declined to comment.
Newman also hurls several F-bombs during the video, along with other disparaging racial epithets aimed at Stokes and her son.
The complaint said Stokes recorded the computer screen because she could not believe what she was hearing, and figured that if she didn’t document it, no one would believe Newman’s comments were so outrageous, the complaint states.
Called principal during call
During Newman’s rant, Stokes called the principal at her son’s school to complain. The principal also was shocked and someone from Desert Willow phoned Newman and asked her if she had been making racist and profane comments about a student, according to the complaint.
Newman denied making such comments and exited the Zoom platform, the complaint states.
Newman wasn’t fired, but has apparently since resigned from Desert Willow, the claim states.
“Ms. Stokes is concerned about her son’s ability to a get ‘fair shake’ at school since … other teachers appear to share similar feelings about he and Ms. Stokes,” the complaint says.
Source: Orange County Register