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3 L.A. teachers suspended over Black History Month celebration of Simpson, Rodman, RuPaul

Three teachers at a South Los Angeles elementary school have been suspended for allegedly encouraging students to celebrate O.J. Simpson, Dennis Rodman and RuPaul for Black History Month, officials said Wednesday.

Children at Wadsworth Avenue Elementary School were carrying pictures of the men at a parade Friday on the school playground, said Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman Gayle Pollard-Terry. She said Supt. Ramon C. Cortines learned about the incident Tuesday and had the teachers, who are white, pulled from their classrooms pending an investigation.

The suspension is without pay for the first three days.

“The superintendent believes there are better choices,” she said. 

Other students were carrying pictures of President Obama and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The teachers have not been identified and could not be reached for comment.

  District officials did not provide details about what the teachers did, saying the investigation was still ongoing. .Some community leaders aren’t satisfied with the suspensions and are calling for the dismissal of the instructors, who teach 1st, 2nd and 4th grade.

“I just can’t fathom what these teachers were thinking of except to make a mockery of African American history,” said Leon Jenkins, president of the Los Angeles branch of the National Assn. for  the Advancement of Colored People.

L. C. "Chris" Strudwick-Turner of the Los Angeles Urban League likened the episode to a series of racially provocative incidents at UC San Diego, where a Feb. 15 off-campus party mocked Black History Month. “These kinds of things build on each other,” she said. “When something like that happens in [San Diego] and there is no immediate consequence, that emboldens others. That’s why I was glad that LAUSD took them out of the classroom right away.”

Pollard-Terry said Simpson, Rodman and RuPaul were included on a list of prominent African Americans approved by the school for study during Black History Month. She said the three teacher were believed to have suggested at least some of those names for the list. Strudwick-Turner said the Urban League has been told by people who attended the parade that the  teachers had been asked to instruct their classes on a notable African American and that they had Simpson, Rodman and RuPaul.

The district had dispatched a human relations and ethnic diversity team Wednesday to help the school prepare lessons that are “more appropriate for Black History Month,” she added.

--Alexandra Zavis

Comments () | Archives (37)

what's wrong with RuPaul?

This article illustrates why self-respecting people (of any race) have no business teaching for LAUSD. This "school" district revels in political correctness and racial hypersensitivity while one generation of children after another is robbed of an education at its institutions. Here's the key to a long, upwardly mobile career in LAUSD: 1) don't make any waves, 2) don't work very hard, and 3) act outraged over anything which could conceivably be labeled as racist. Oh, and if your IQ is lower than your shoe-size, it should enhance your prospects with the district as well. POLITICALLY CORRECT BUMS! They squander time and resources on garbage like this while their schools are in complete (tax-payer funded) chaos! The nerve of these callow, brainless, spineless trogolodytes is deeply disturbing.

I actually have no issues with RuPaul being considered a hero. He's helped move acceptance of gays forward tremendously, especially in the black community.

So, what's wrong with O.J. Simpson, Dennis Rodman and Ru Paul? Are they not black? The late Michael Jackson does not qualify as black, so he can't be even considered among the three. The three living men mentioned above are famous and have a huge fan base.

We can see how these teachers are thinking. It was just a stupid joke on their part, and it is going to cost them more than money.

You have got to be kidding -- O.J. Simpson? There is no shortage of worthy black citizens in our country's history to recognize and celebrate during Black History Month -- and any other month, for that matter. Our children, of every race, need to learn about the many decent people, also of every race, who make our world worth living in and make it a better place. How about teaching them about people like Dr. Charles Drew, or Justice Thurgood Marshall? Or Maya Angelou? And we wonder why the LAUSD is failing?

I definitely think OJ is a bad choice overall, Rodman isn't terrible, but mostly I think RuPaul is just an artist and a pretty good one at that .. I really don't think he deserves to elicit the same level of outrage as OJ.

Hmmm. These teachers must be racist, right? I mean, why else would they go to South LA five days per week to teach? Okay, maybe some people will finally admit that OJ did it ... but what's wrong with Rodman and RuPaul?

Um....what the hell did poor RuPaul do? He's an entertainer, he hasn't hurt anyone at all.

Without a doubt the teachers in question were mocking Black History Month. There may be a time when a civilization does not have to point out ethnicity and celebrate that which divides so many. But not now. African- American role models need to stand up and stand out for the young children who see so much publicity by those who are horrible role models - the three you mentioned in the article come to mind. TJM

RuPaul, OJ Simpson and Dennis Rodman are all positive black men in my opinion...yes some of them have fallen from grace but are they not members of the black community? Black history month in its self is racist...we don't have white history month, Chinese history month or any other race related month...why black? We should all be happy to be AMERICANS first...

This is beyond ridiculous. The school already approved the three African American celebrities in question, and now they are scapegoating three teachers for including contemporary celebrities along with MLK Jr. and President Obama.

I guess if I were Rodman, Simpson, or RuPaul, I might be insulted that people think I am not fit to represent the African Americans. Each of the three are or have been role models for youth of ALL RACES - and RuPaul is an inspiration to breaking barriers that the GLBT crowd is still struggling to overcome.

What a disappointment that the school and Mr. Cortines are choosing to deal with this "story" in such a cowardly fashion.

Maybe I'm just playing devil's advocate here, but who's to say we can't recognize the less-than-favorable moments in history as well? I think we are doing a greater dis-service to Black History Month by pretending that parts of its history didn't happen. Yes, these are young children, but at what age do we decide its ok to stop lying to them and tell them the truth about what really happened in the Civil War with slavery, or what the Sixties were really about?

Who is the great moral deciding factor whom is completely innocent, as they should be the ones to cast the first stone?

It seems a little weird for these teachers, the Superintendent, and now for the Times to apparently be classing RuPaul and Dennis Rodman with O.J. Simpson.

What's wrong with RuPaul? He's an entertainer, and a successful one at that. Yes, Dennis Rodman probably failed to achieve his true potential due to some personal flaws. But O.J. Simpson is a criminal and (let's face it) likely a double murderer. It's baselessly insulting to equate RuPaul and Rodman with Simpson. Suspend the teachers for Simpson, but why not leave the other two out of it? No, they're not Frederick Douglass or Harriet Tubman, but they've certainly had fame and success and represent ways in which kids can be themselves and still achieve.

Lighten up...there should be room for all different kinds of role models in school, except criminals.

I doubt most kids at that school know who OJ, Rodman and RuPaul are since that is a predominately Latino school. This is probably the most important place to celebrate black history since there is a lot of black/brown tension and for these teachers to be flip about it gives one pause. I mean I would hate to see what they would bust out for Cinco de Mayo, placards of drug dealers maybe?

Typical. How long before the racist sympathizers and apologists come here whining about political correctness and Overly-Sensitive Blacks? What rhetorical gymnastics will they use to justify this action?

Here's a test. If you asked someone to name his top 3 American heroes and he answered OJ, RuPaul, and Rodman, would you say "great choices ... all three epitomize who we are as Americans." Not.

Another passive-aggressive racism fail. These three "teachers" do not merit attempting to educate 1st, 2nd, and 4th graders. No wonder LAUSD is so sorry.

Mr. or Ms. "Sick from the whine"-- I agree that the teachers are probably being scapegoated, as usual. Teachers AND administrators are being scapegoated for the inadequacy of our poorly funded educational system.

But it still indicates a serious lack of judgment---whether it was only the teachers' or of others as well---or blatant disrespect and mockery for the significance of African-American history when kids tv celebrities (and/or criminals) are being held up as role models. (Now, if these teachers actually talk to their kids in a positive way about LGBTQ issues, then maybe you have a point on RuPaul, but there are better examples of black gay heroes than he.)

Of course my children did not go to LA schools. I would keep them home rather than having them march around with photos of any blacks on black history month or African American history month. OJ is a hero to the black community for killing a white woman and getting away with it. The other 2 are entertainers, who cares. The whole idea of the month is a ridiculous waste of time. This should be taught at home if parents want their kids exposed to this.

Simpson, Rodman & RuPaul were on the list provided to the teachers. If these 3 Black people should not be looked highly upon, then don't put them on the list. It's actually pretty simple, nothing to do with race or racism.

It's black HISTORY month, not black heroes month. History includes the bad with the good. That said, two of the three (Rodman and Paul) haven't changed the world significantly and OJ, well, he will eventually be at best a footnote.

Do my eyes deceive me, or so I see a double-standard here? OJ Simpson is inappropriate for Black History Month and yet it was appropriate for LAUSD to rename Mount Vernon Middle School as Johnnie Cochran Middle School? Just to set the record straight, I do not think OJ Simpson is an African-American who should be featured during Black History Month. But at the same time, I do not think a public school should be named after Johnnie Cochran.

Are you serious? Aren't these three individuals famous, successful and popular African-Americans? I am all for recognizing the accomplishments of those individuals and groups that do not get the credit they deserve. But you cannot pick who to celebrate. February wasn't Barack Obama or Martin Luther King Jr. month, it is Black History month. Unless I am wrong, O.J., RuPaul and Denis Rodman are all black...so what's the problem?

You know, I was really hoping I'd never again hear the phrase "a credit to his race." But apparently, that very phrase (or at least, the sentiment) is now an integral part of the LAUSD guidelines for teaching history.

Homophobia is alive and well in Watts Public School system:
Your story on the three teachers fired in Watts for honoring
the transgender rupaul in black history month reaks of the rabid
homophobia that still plagues our public school systems.
It is past time that our public schools honor Black LGBT heroes
in Black history month. It is a disgrace that Leon Jenkins, president of
the NAACP is calling Rupaul an appalling figure for being transgender. Apparently the Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) only defends the civil rights of Black heterosexuals. It is time to end the homophobia in the NAACP, Urban League, PTA, and the California public school systems.

What's galling is that Ramon Cortines is so outraged at the celebrating of RuPaul as a Black role model. I believe RuPaul is a role model. Unfortunately, the idiot teachers who did this didn't think of RuPaul as a role model, but Ramon just took a bad situation and doubly victimized RuPaul's character and contributions.

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