A Jersey City assemblywoman is calling for the city school district to provide mental health counseling for middle school students who were subjected to their teacher’s 45-minute profane rant filled with foul language and racial stereotypes last week.
“Teachers are mentors and kids look up to them and that profession is so precious, so for the kids to have to endure this, I am sickened,” Assemblywoman Angela McKnight said in an interview. “We need to look at everyone involved to check on their mental state.”
One of the students in the Academy 1 Middle School seventh-grade classroom recorded at least part of the tirade, which appears to have been prompted by a fight between two students, and shared it with The Jersey Journal.
In the 18-minute recording, a social studies teacher can be heard telling students that “Your neighborhood is filled with violence. Who is perpetrating the violence? Black on Black. The whites aren’t coming here shooting you all down. Are they? Are they? How many white people came and shot you today? ”
The teacher has been suspended with pay pending an allegation.
“Mental health is at the top of all of our minds, and we need to make sure that those kids are okay,” said McKnight, adding that the school district should also check in on the children’s parents.
Schools interim Superintendent Norma Fernandez could not be reached to comment on what mental health actions, if any, the district is planning.
McKnight said the incident underscores the importance of a bill she introduced that would declare racism a public health emergency in New Jersey. She introduced the bill in the summer of 2020 during the Nationwide protests over the Killing of George Floyd and reintroduced it in the current session.
“Studies have shown that implicit biases and internalized racism has led to black and brown people having less access to health care, preventive care, and quality education, and suffering from higher incarceration and increased mortality rates throughout this country and state,” the bill says .
It also notes that the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, and the American Public Health Association have all formally said that racism is a public health issue and have called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study it.
“What happens to us internally does spill over externally,” McKnight said, explaining that what happened at Academy 1 Middle School is a public concern because the students may act out it in ways that affect others, too. … Those kids have to go back to school, have to learn now, are they going to fear that they will have to hear this again from someone else? ”
McKnight declined to say what kind of punitive measure she wants taken against the teacher, limiting her comments to saying that she hoped the people investigating the situation “do what is right.”
McKnight added that she is going to “monitor the outcome of this and if I feel that the action is not really up to par, I will speak on that.”