Riverside teacher accused of mocking Native American culture placed on leave; video criticized as insensitive

A Riverside teacher was placed on leave after video of her seen chanting and dancing in a fake paper-made Native American headgear went viral. 

Video posted online shows the woman chanting "SohCahToa" while war hooping and tomahawk chopping in front of the class. 

The video was recorded by students and has gone viral since it was posted online. 

The teacher works at John W. North High School and was teaching trigonometry.

The Riverside Unified School District released the following 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 Riverside Unified School District values diversity, equity and inclusion, and does not condone behavior against these values," the statement read in part. 

A school board meeting was held Thursday night. Community members, parents, and the Native American community are demanding that she be fired. 

The teacher was placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation, according to the school district.

Local lawmakers are also expressing their outrage. 

Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) issued a joint statement along with Assemblymembers Jose Medina (D-Riverside) and Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), "We fully condemn the actions that took place at John W. North High School earlier this week. The teacher’s behavior was highly inappropriate and offensive." 

They explained that they want to work with the Riverside school district to ensure similar incidents are not repeated. Ramos said the video underscores the need for greater understanding of Native American culture and history. 

"I have proposed AB 1554 and ACA 6, which would create the California Indian Education Act to increase student knowledge about the state’s Native American people," he stated on his website

Ramos is the first California Native American elected to the state Legislature.

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