advocacy

California’s Katura Stokes sues Palmdale School District over Kimberly Newman’s racist rant on Zoom

 

Katura Stokes is a mother of an African-American boy, 12, a sixth-grader attending Desert Willow Fine Arts, Science and Technology Magnet Academy in Palmdale, Los Angeles County, California, United States. On March 25, 2021, she filed a damage claim against the Palmdale School District.

According to Stokes, her son was having a hard time accessing and using the Palmdale School District’s online platform to complete class assignments during distance learning as a result of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. So on January 20, 2021, his science teacher Kimberly Newman organized a Zoom call from her home with him and his mother and worked out problems in accessing the online platform.

Stokes’ son was all caught up with his assignments, Newman said by the the end of the Zoom session. Seconds later, the teacher was not aware that she had not exited the session and complained to her husband about Stokes and her son.

Newman, who is white, went on a rant for more than 30 minutes. It was recorded by Stokes.

“She’s answered her phone for the first time the entire year,” Newman said of Stokes. “I mean these parents, that’s what kind of piece of s**t they are. Black. He’s Black. They’re a Black family.”

“Your son has learned to lie to everybody and make excuses to be a child,” Newman continued. “Since you’ve taught him to make excuses that nothing is his fault. This is what Black people do.”

During the rant, Newman also accused Stokes’ son of having learned to lie to everybody. The teacher continued, “You’ve taught him to make excuses that nothing is his fault.”

“This is what Black people do,” Newman added. “This is what black people do. White people do it, too, but black people do it way more.”

Days after the Zoom session, Newman was placed on administrative leave. She eventually resigned.

 

Representing Stokes are Neil Gehlawat and John Taylor. For Gehlawat, the video of Newmans rant clearly shows the existence of unequal educational experiences for minority students.

“Like many parents whose children have struggled to transition to online schooling during the pandemic, Ms. Stokes reached out for help and, in return, she discovered that her son was being treated unfairly because of the color of his skin,” the Orange County Register quoted Gehlat as saying. For Taylor, it is unthinkable that an educator like Newman would mock and belittle Stokes’ family and “there is no doubt that this incident has scarred them.

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