School officials initially called it “a Halloween stunt,” but now a teacher is out of a job.
A New Mexico English teacher accused of calling one Native American student a “bloody Indian,” and “snipping” a lock of braided hair from another Native American student in class on Halloween — while dressed as a voodoo witch — is no longer employed by Albuquerque schools.
A spokeswoman for Albuquerque Public Schools said the relationship between the district and the English teacher has been “severed,” according to KOAT. The district did not make clear whether the teacher was fired or whether she resigned.
The trouble all stems from a bizarre incident in class at Cibola High School on Halloween that landed a teacher there on paid administrative leave, according to KRQE.
The English teacher was dressed as Marie Laveau, a Louisiana Creole historical figure said to have been a voodoo witch, for Halloween, according to a demand letter from the New Mexico American Civil Liberties Union, which advocated on behalf of the students bringing the accusations.
She spoke to the students’ class in character, the ACLU says, asking one Native American student dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, with fake blood on her cheek, “What are you supposed to be, a bloody Indian?”
The ACLU and the Albuquerque Journal identified the teacher as Mary Jane Eastin, and the student as McKenzie Johnson. Both the ACLU and the Navajo Nation pressured Albuquerque Public Schools to cut ties with the teacher until the decision was made to part ways, effectivee Nov. 30.
Johnson’s mother, Shannon, called the teacher’s removal from the district “a short-term win,” according to the Journal.
The ACLU account of the incident, which draws heavily from the students’ side of the story, says that Eastin tried to explain her comment after gasps went up in the classroom following her “bloody Indian” remark.
“What? She is bloody, and she is an …” the teacher said, according to the ACLU, catching herself before making another potentially discriminatory remark.
But that all happened after the teacher approached another Native American student in the classroom and snipped her braided hair, according to a letter sent home to parents from Cibola High School administrators.
She asked the student whether she liked her braids before cutting about three inches from one of her three braids and sprinkling “it on the desk in front of her,” according to the ACLU.
Russell Begaye, the president of the Navajo Nation, called the incident a “cultural assault” on Native American students in the classroom in a written statement.