Phoenix School Worker Probed For Allegedly Using Racial Slur During Appeal to Students

A middle school employee was allegedly caught using a racial slur in an incident reportedly filmed inside a school bus in Phoenix.

The staff member, said to be from the Paradise Valley Unified School District, can be heard seemingly discouraging students of Vista Verde Middle School from using racist language in footage taken on Thursday, April 1.

“I don’t want to hear the [n-word] word anymore,” the school official says in a video obtained by CBS5AZ, as students can be heard erupting in audible shock.

The three-second clip does not provide any context to the statement, but has been met with outrage since being shared across social media.

“This is a very, very pivotal point for kids, and they really need adults to be strong role models,” Jodi Light, an after-school enrichment teacher with the district, told the outlet. “It is shocking and it is wrong under any circumstance. It’s not appropriate. Teachers, principals… they should be very sensitive and very self-aware, and it is damaging for all kids to hear that word in the air.”

The incident is reportedly under investigation and the staff member has not returned to campus, the Paradise Valley Unified School District told CBS5AZ.

Newsweek has contacted the Paradise Valley Unified School District for comment.

The news comes less than a month after the family of a Black sixth-grader is reported to be preparing to sue the Palmdale School District of southern California after a teacher allegedly delivered a racist 30-minute rant using the Zoom video conferencing app.

Katura Stokes said that on January 20, science teacher Kimberly Newman ranted at her and her son, a student at the Desert Willow Fine Arts, Science and Technology Magnet Academy. The rant allegedly occurred after the two met with Newman on Zoom to ask about her son’s difficulties accessing some of the school’s online educational tools.

In a video of the alleged rant recorded on Stokes’ cell phone and later provided to KCBS-TV by her attorney, Newman reportedly said, “These parents, that’s what kind of pieces of shit they are. Black, he’s Black, they’re a Black family.” Newman reportedly made the comment to her spouse, unaware that the Zoom call had continued broadcasting from her computer’s camera.

“Your son has learned to lie to everybody,” Newman allegedly said at another point. “You’ve taught him to make excuses that nothing is his fault. This is what Black people do, this is what Black people do. White people do it too, but Black people do it way more.”

Stokes’ attorney Neil Gehlawat said that Stokes felt such disbelief at the rant, that she called the school’s principal to let the principal hear as the rant continued.

At some point, a school staff person allegedly called Newman mid-rant and asked, “You know there’s a parent that’s been recording this? Have you been making obscenities and profanities and saying these things about a student?” Newman allegedly denied that she had and then exited out of the Zoom call, Gehlawat told KTLA.

In February, the Palmdale School District held a news conference in which district spokesman David Garcia called the behavior “[the] gross, professional misconduct of a now-former Palmdale teacher,” the Antelope Valley Press reported.

Barely an hour after the call, Newman was ordered to go to the District office to face Palmdale Superintendent Raul Maldonado, the aforementioned publication said.

A district spokesperson said that Newman allegedly refused to view the recording and said that she would rather resign than undergo an investigation about the incident. Newman was immediately put on paid administrative leave and resigned three days later.

The district subsequently apologized to the family and offered counseling to Stokes and her son.

The nonprofit group Parents of Black Children (PoBC) has launched a racism reporting tool that allows teachers and school staff members to anonymously detail incidents they feel were inappropriately dealt with or unfairly targeted Black students.

Launched in March in schools across Canada, the online tool was prompted by Ontario education officials last year claiming they could not keep accurate data on anti-Black incidents of racism in schools.

The group aimed to create an anonymous platform through which to record such incidents—ranging from student-on-student bullying to unfair staff hiring practices—directly from staff members inside the schools themselves.

School Bus
File photo: Students walk to board a school bus in Manhattan’s East Village. A staff member, reportedly from the Paradise Valley Unified School District, is under fire for using the N-word on a bus serving the Vista Verde Middle School in Phoenix.
Mario Tama/Getty Images