Videos released to social media show children staring in quiet while their math teacher, dressed in a fake Native American headdress, kicked her feet and swung her arms in front of the class, constantly screaming “SohCahToa.”
“I don’t know, tomahawks? Is that right?” the teacher can be heard asking in the video as she chopped her arms in the air.
The children remained silent until the teacher began yelling and jumping about the classroom, chanting the word — which is generally used in regard to trigonometric functions. The room burst out laughing at that point.
The video, which was allegedly shot by a Native American student and then shared on social media on Wednesday, has stirred indignation both within and outside the Native American community.
“These behaviors are completely unacceptable and an offensive depiction of the vast and expansive Native American cultures and practices,” the district said on Thursday, without naming the teacher. “Her actions do not represent the values of our district.”
The woman’s school isn’t named in the statement, but John W. North High School posted the district’s statement to its Instagram account, referring to her as “one of our teachers.”
The statement read, “We understand the public’s interest and desire in immediate action, but we must act within the processes set out in the law, including the California Education Code, so that our ultimate action is on solid ground and will not further complicate an already unfortunate situation. The investigation will address who knew what, or whether this was an isolated incident or happened in prior years also.”
The statement then adds: “While the investigation is taking place, our team of counselors and administration are focusing on our students. We met with, and will continue to meet with, students in the class and community and take actions to heal.”
“As the superintendent, I do not want the incident to diminish the work that everyone connected with North High has done over a long period of time to welcome all who enter their school community.”
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On Thursday a representative for the school declined to name the instructor.
“Because the case is under investigation, we cannot make any comments,” district spokeswoman Diana Meza told The Washington Post in an email.
The teacher can be seen stamping her feet as she stands atop a table in the rear of the classroom, yelling “SohCahToa,” before making her way to the center of the classroom at some time during the math class..
The teacher then giggles and sits on top of her desk, praying to the “water goddess.”
“Because obviously, this is ridiculous,” she told students.
The event is the most recent instance of a teacher being placed on administrative leave or fired due to racially offensive remarks or behavior. After students said she called a Native American kid a “bloody Indian” and cut another’s braid, an Albuquerque English instructor was fired in 2018. In April, a New Jersey science instructor was suspended after calling George Floyd a “criminal” during a virtual session.