An Alaska teacher has been suspended from her job after she was caught telling students during a Zoom class that George Floyd would still be alive had he complied with police and did not dress like 'thugs.'
A video on YouTube last week shows a teacher, referred to as 'Ms. Gardner', talking to students about police killing black people, and telling them that if they complied with police, they would be less likely to get shot.
Authorities at the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District watched the video, following which they sent a letter last week notifying parents that the teacher in the video had been placed on leave pending an investigation. The video of the incident where the teacher makes the insensitive comments has since gone viral.
A 15-minute video posted by a parent on YouTube, a masked teacher at Lathrop High School in Fairbanks is seen participating in a discussion of high-profile police shootings of African-Americans. When the topic turns to Floyd, the teacher says former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin "abused his authority" and "was complicit in George Floyd's death."
So far, it sounded fin but then she comes up a comment that completely shocks everyone attending the class. "But if George Floyd had, at the beginning when they got him out of the car and went to put him in the police car if he had just sidled into the car and slid it in there, and let them put his legs in, he would be alive today, and you know that's true," she added.
Officials declined to name the teacher but the district's website shows only one staffer with the same name: High school special education teacher Connie Gardner.
However, the teacher doesn't stop there. A self-described "old white lady," she then describes what she would have done had she ever got arrested, "I'm putting my hands behind my back and I'm going to jail and I'm calling my husband when I get there, and he's going to call our attorney. And I'm gonna tell the cops, I'm gonna say, 'Yes sir,' and 'Sir, when you search me, you're going to find a gun strapped to my ankle, and I'm just letting you know about it now, so that you don't, you know, so that you can get it and be safe.'"
Teaching New Lessons
Gardner, understandably, is against the way Floyd reacted to the officers during his arrest. She doesn't speak about police brutality but instead stresses on complying with the police even if a person being arrested is not at fault.
"If the cops come and they say, 'I'm taking you to jail,' then you put your hands behind your back, you let them off you, you get in the cop car and you go and call your parents when they give you your phone call," the teacher goes on. "That's what you do to stay alive. Everybody, white, black, brown. I don't care what color you are. None of that makes a difference. You comply, you do what they say."
Later in the video, the teacher tells her students how to dress in order to avoid attracting the attention of cops. "Look at how you guys are dressed," she says. "You guys are dressed nicely. You don't look like thugs, you don't have your pants down around your knees."
Clearly, her indication is that Floyd had every reason to be arrested and his clothes too spoke a lot about him.
It is unclear what prompted the conversation in the video. At that point, a woman who's name is 'Liz' on the Zoom call and identifies herself as a tutor of some of the students, spoke up and said she was not comfortable with the discussion.
Soon, another mother of a student who appears to be video taping the call speaks up and says she does not feel 'Ms. Gardner' should be speaking about these topics as a white woman. "Some of the things that you are saying, I feel like you are very uneducated on and I don't feel like you are able to address these things that are going on today," said the woman, who identified herself as a woman of color who faced racism growing up in the South.
After school authorities watched the video, the teacher was immediately put on leave and an investigation has been launched. The teacher will be represented by a union advocate while the investigation continues, according to Sandra Ryan, the president of Fairbanks Education Association.