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Very Real

5 Teachers Who Were Accused Of Racism Just Last Month

Dayanna Volitich, Amy Wax and three other educators came under fire in the last month.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

Schools aren’t always the safe — or enlightened — spaces they could be. Unfortunately, racism is everywhere, including the classroom. With the rise of the smartphone, more and more teachers and professors are being held accountable for their actions and harmful viewpoints.

Here are five educators who made headlines for reported racism:

1. The Middle School Teacher Who Allegedly Peddled “Science” That Some Races Are Smarter Than Others

A social studies teacher at Crystal River Middle School in Florida was “removed from the classroom" pending an investigation, according to the district's Facebook page and CBS News, after the Huffington Post exposed her involvement in a white supremacist podcast. Dayanna Volitich reportedly participated in the “Unapologetic” podcast using the pseudonym “Tiana Dalichov,” arguing that science proves that certain races are inferior to others and that “terrorism will continue unless Muslims are eradicated 'from the face of the Earth,'” according to the explosive Huffington Post report, which was published in March. Volitich, who discussed hiding her beliefs from employers on air, has since claimed that the podcast was “satire.”

"None of the statements released about my being a white nationalist or white supremacist have any truth to them, nor are my political beliefs injected into my teaching of social studies curriculum," she said in a statement via her attorney on March 4, according to local station WFLA, which published the full statement. Volitich then tendered her resignation, according to CNN, at the beginning of April.

2. The Law School Professor Who Once Said Black Students “Rarely” Perform Well

Amy Wax, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, made headlines in March after comments she’d made about black students during an interview last fall was resurfaced by the president of Penn’s Black Law Students Association, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. In a conversation with Brown University professor Glenn Loury, Wax said, “Here’s a very inconvenient fact, Glenn: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the class, and rarely, rarely, in the top half. I can think of one or two students who scored in the top half of my required first-year course.”

Though university officials decided that Wax would no longer teach the introductory civil procedure class she referenced in her interview, Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger stated that the change was not a punishment, writing in an email to students, “[Wax] will be similarly situated to a substantial majority of our tenured and chaired faculty, most of whom do not teach required first-year courses.” While Wax did not comment to HuffPo, in the past she has not shied away on her opinions about superiority, saying in an interview with the Daily Pennsylvanian: “I don’t shrink from the word, ‘superior.’ Everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans.”

Dean Ruger also challenged Wax’s statements on the success rates of black students, telling the university’s school newspaper that “contrary to any suggestion otherwise, black students at Penn Law are extremely successful, both inside and outside the classroom, in the job market, and in their careers.”

3. The High School Teacher Who Allegedly Accused An “Ethnic” Of Stealing A Computer Mouse

Last month, Randolph Perez, a high school math teacher in Louisiana, came under fire after a student posted a photo of a vitriolic, projected message in the classroom about a "moronic, self obsessed ethnic." Perez then purportedly ranted about the supposed culprit not knowing both of his or her parents, and suggested that their caretakers are “too busy buying drugs and [scoring] cigars at the Shop-Rite” to afford a “five dollar part.” Students say he concluded his message by calling the unnamed student a “two bit thief” and a “waste of carbon and oxygen.”

The school district has since opened an investigation into the situation, according to Buzzfeed. Vernon Parish Schools Board Assistant Superintendent Mike Kay commented: “I can tell you that the viewpoint that was posted on that board was nowhere near the stance of the Vernon Parish School Board. We don’t subscribe to those beliefs, nor do we condone that action.”

4. The Career Planning Teacher Who Was Caught On Tape Telling A Baby (And Its Parents) To Go Home

Tarin Olson, a career planning teacher at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, California, was recorded last month telling a couple to go back to their home country. In the video uploaded onto Facebook on March 1, Olson can be heard telling a couple and their baby: "You need to go back to your home country."

Husband Tony Kao recorded the encounter, and said in the video, "I want you to tell everybody why you told us to go back to our country," at which point Olson stood by her statements. (Fun fact: Kao and his wife were both born and raised in the United States.)

"I feel my perspective will be twisted if discussing the skewed video which cut out part of the incident,” said Olson to CBS News. “If you would like to have a full normal interview about the displacement of European-Americans then I gladly am available to enlighten the public.” She has since been placed on administrative leave while her employers conduct an internal investigation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

5. The Math Teacher Who Reportedly Warned His Students Not To Date Black Kids

David Swinyar, a middle school math teacher in Jackson, Florida, was suspended last month after an investigation by the school district found that he’d repeatedly used racial slurs in class. In addition to using the n-word, Swinyar reportedly warned students that they "should not be dating all these different African American boys because they are not worth it," according to the Washington Post.

"If your boyfriend says bad things to you and/or treats you wrong, that means he's acting like a n——," Swinyar reportedly said to a student at one point, according to a student testimony in a school district investigative report.

Swinyar’s union attorney, Stephanie Schaap, said that Swinyar denies making such comments and is appealing the board’s decision, according to the Florida Union-Times. Following his suspension without pay, he will be “reassigned to an appropriate district position with no contact with students for the remainder of the year,” Duval County Schools Superintendent Patricia Willis explained in a letter, CNN reports.

“As an annual contract employee, Mr. Swinyar’s employment contract with the district expires June 30, 2018,” she wrote. “In May, recommendations for contract renewals for all annual employees will be considered.”

[Photo Via Getty Images]