A social justice group in Sacramento has called on a Folsom middle school teacher to publicly apologize for statements he made about lynching during a classroom discussion about the U.S. Constitution.
About a dozen members in the Sacramento chapter of the national group, Showing Up for Racial Justice, spoke with reporters Thursday night before the Folsom Cordova Unified School District board meeting. Racial Justice member Niki Jones said during the meeting she hopes that when racial inequities occur that those responsible are held accountable and that the process is transparent.
On Nov. 2, history teacher Woody Hart told his eighth-grade class, “When you hang one black person, you have to hang them all (as) that is equality,” according to a complaint filed by the family of Tyler McIntyre, 13. Tyler’s father, Tyrie McIntyre, said the remark occurred during class discussion of a test on the U.S. Constitution, when a student asked for a definition of equality.
Hart later told The Sacramento Bee he had spent much of the year teaching about racial equality and was trying to make an academic point. He vowed never to use the analogy again. The school responded by crafting remedial action for Hart, saying he must use examples that eighth-graders can understand and avoid stereotypes or culturally insensitive language.
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Those forms of comments have no place in our schools. We cannot have and we cannot tolerate behavior that makes our students feel unsafe.
Zak Ford, Folsom Cordova Unified School District trustee
On Thursday night immediately before public comment, Trustee Zak Ford called Hart’s statement “very inappropriate and flat out stupid.” Ford apologized on behalf of Sutter Middle School, the board and the entire district.
“Those forms of comments have no place in our schools,” he said. “We cannot have and we cannot tolerate behavior that makes our students feel unsafe.”
Racial Justice member Jenine Spotnitz told reporters before the meeting that in addition to Hart’s apology, the group seeks to create a working group made up of community members to address issues like the one that occurred Nov. 2.
District spokesman Dan Thigpen said schools are taking the initiative in teaching tolerance and acceptance. There are positive behavior intervention support teams at each school. The teams focus on ensuring that students feel safe and take action when they encounter problems.
Thigpen said Sutter Middle School is holding meetings with students and staff to better respond to cases of harassment.
“We want to partner with our community groups,” Thigpen said of the social justice chapter. “We are happy to sit down at the table to discuss how we can work together toward solutions.”