A substitute teacher has been suspended for making alleged inflammatory remarks in front of a class of mostly Chinese-American fifth-graders in Brooklyn.
Peshe Schiller, 70, told the 10-year-old students during a "Gifted and Talented" program at the P.S. 204 Vince Lombardi school that Covid-19 was created by China in a lab and that their parents left China because it's "a Communist country and they don't have freedom... they wanted you to have freedom."
The incident took place last Thursday when Schiller was filling in for an absent teacher and got into a discussion about vaccines and the virus. Twenty-four of the 27 students in the class are Chinese-American, according to one parent.
The parents said their kids reported Schiller insisting that the virus was developed by China in a lab â a theory that has been ruled out by U.S. intelligence and health officials. The kids also alleged Schiller declared all Chinese people as communists, told them people who visit the country wind up dead, and that China has no freedom of religion.
The sub, who has been a teacher for nearly four decades, has since been suspended from working in the Department of Education (DOE) while its Office of Equal Opportunity investigates.
Outraged parents of the students said the comments were not only insensitive but also inappropriate for a group of elementary school kids.
"It's outrageous to bring anything political like this forward to a group of 10-year-olds," one parent told New York Daily News. "Why would someone who is a teacher talk to a bunch of 10-year-olds like that?" said another. "I feel like this is more than racist, it's more like bullying."
Schiller Denies the Allegations
Schiller denies the allegations, saying the children may have made up the stories because she reprimanded them for using a bathroom on the wrong floor, which parents dismissed as an absurd claim.
Schiller claims that "we were talking about how vaccines were developed and why, and this kid out of nowhere said, 'the virus was produced by animals.'"
"I said everyone has their own opinion but I heard on the news that it was developed in a laboratory," Schiller added.
Schiller continued to defend herself saying she described China as "a Communist country and they don't have freedom, that's why you're here." "Maybe they were upset that I said China is a Communist country, they took offense to that. But it is," she asserted.
Schiller was also accused of describing Filipinos as dirty and pulling down her mask to express her displeasure with Mayor de Blasio's vaccine mandate. She denied both allegations, noting that she got vaccinated before the DOE's mandate.