By Paul P. Murphy and Nicole Chavez, CNN
A math teacher in Southern California has been placed on leave after videos posted online showed her wearing a headdress and mimicking a Native American dance during a lesson.
The video appears to have been recorded by a student in Riverside, California, during a math lesson and posted on social media by another person. CNN has repeatedly attempted to contact the person that posted the videos online.
In the video, a teacher is seen wearing a headdress made of paper simulating feathers and dancing around the classroom while chanting “SohCahToa” — a mnemonic used to remember sine, cosine and tangent, which are the three main functions in trigonometry.
At one point, the video shows the teacher making references to a “rock god” and “water goddess.”
In a statement Thursday, the Riverside Unified School District confirmed one of its teachers was seen in the video and has been placed on leave while an investigation is conducted.
The district did not identify the teacher. CNN has reached out to the teachers’ union and the teacher for comment but has not received a response.
“These behaviors are completely unacceptable and an offensive depiction of the vast and expansive Native American cultures and practices,” the district said. “Her actions do not represent the values of our district.”
The district noted its commitment to implement “inclusive practices and policies” and said it will be working to regain the trust of the school community.
Crystal Echo Hawk, founder and executive director of IllumiNative, a prominent group focused on increasing the visibility of Indigenous people, said the teacher’s behavior was “extremely disrespectful and unacceptable.”
“The behavior demonstrated by this California teacher is incredibly harmful to Native youth. We must set a higher standard of training for educators to prevent racism and discrimination from occurring in the classroom — especially by faculty,” Echo Hawk said in a statement.
The incident is an example of the need for cultural competency training for teachers and how Native American history is underrepresented and inaccurate in classrooms across the country, Echo Hawk said.
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