North America

Riverside, California math teacher Candice Reed war hoops, tomahawk chops, chants ‘SOHCAHTOA’

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Candice Reed teaches math at John W. North High School in Riverside, California, United States. She is being accused of being racist.

The school’s 2012 yearbook had a photo of her wearing a fake Native American headdress. The caption said, “Dancing from one end of the room to the other, math teacher Candice Reed wears an Indian headdress to emphasize geometry basics. ‘I find that if I tell them a story using math along the way, it’s like a memory device’! It just may stick with them forever.”

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On October 19, 2021, Reed kept chanting “SOHCAHTOA” while wearing a fake Native American headdress, war hooping and tomahawk chopping during her math class at John W. North High School. The mnemonic stands for sine equals opposite over hypotenuse, cosine equals adjacent over hypotenuse, and tangent equals opposite over adjacent.

One of Reed’s students, who is Native American, recorded the incident. On October 20, 2021, the video was shared on social media by Akalei Brown, a historian and artist of Kanaka-Maoli and Taos Pueblo descent.

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Brown told Newsweek that she posted the video with the permission of the student who recorded it. She said the video could give the world “a small glimpse into the type of abuses Native children face in U.S. schools every day.”

“This is not a one off scenario,” Brown said. “We’re standing up for our children and setting new a standard for the treatment of Native people.”

The video immediately went viral. Consequently, Reed was put on leave while the Riverside Unified School District Administration investigates.

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“A recording of one of our teachers has been widely circulated on social media,” the Riverside Unified School District Administration said in a statement. “These behaviors are completely unacceptable and an offensive depiction of the vast and expansive Native American cultures and practices. Her actions do not represent the values of our district.”

“The teacher has been placed on leave while the District conducts an investigation,” the statement continued. “The Riverside Unified School District values diversity, equity and inclusion and does not condone behavior against these values.”

Californian assembly members Jose Medina, Sabrina Cervantes and James C. Ramos also condemned Reed’s actions through a joint statement. They said in part, “It is damaging and disheartening to see Native American and indigenous culture represented in such a trite and insensitive way.”

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