UPDATED: 8:25 a.m. ET, Oct. 22
Originally published: Oct. 21
The white teacher in California unwittingly starring in a viral video that shows her mocking Native American tradition in front of her students has been placed on leave following the episode that was widely construed as being culturally disrespectful.
Candice Reed was identified as the John W. North High School math teacher in Riverside who donned a “fake feather headdress” and performed a dance in front of students in a video that was posted across all social media platforms but particularly went viral on Twitter, where it had been viewed more than 5 million times as of Friday morning. It was originally shared from the Instagram account of Akalei Brown, whose feed is replete with positive images of Native Americans.
Encouraging her followers to “Please SHARE Widely,” Brown’s caption for the video said “a Native American student filmed this video in his Math class” on Tuesday. “After several minutes of the teacher ‘war hooping & tomahawk chopping’ the student began filming because he, ‘felt that violence was being committed against him and he had the right to record,’” the caption said in part.
The caption also claimed Reed has reportedly been putting on the same performance for her students for more than a decade.
It was not immediately clear what math lesson, if any, she may have been trying to teach her students by trying to imitate Native American dance.
“At first the student noticed the teacher was pulling out a fake feather headdress and when she put it on he thought, ‘what is she going to do?’” the caption added.
Brown used her post to make a personal plea to her followers.
“I am sharing this video because these behaviors can no longer be swept under the rug! As adults, we must stand up for our youth! Please help us in getting the word out and SHARE!” Brown wrote. “This student has a Native first name and outwardly identifies as Native American. We need to end abuse & discrimination against indigenous youth in schools! There is no excuse for this type of behavior. We’re not in the 1960s anymore, she should know better.”
After Brown — who said she has even more footage — invited her followers and whoever else the video was shared with to contact Riverside Unified School District and express their outrage with the principal of John W. North High School and other leaders, the school district expressed contrition in a brief statement and condemned Reed’s actions in no uncertain terms while moving to suspend her.
“A recording of one of our teachers has been widely circulated on social media. 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 said before adding that it “values diversity, equity and inclusion, and does not condone behavior against these values.”
The statement concluded by vowing to “regain your trust.”
The fact that the teacher performed this disrespectful dance in the wake of the nation celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day demonstrates a certain level of indifferent ignorance. Compounding that apparent truth is that it also came from an individual charged with educating impressionable teenagers in an area of the country where there is a population that is less than 1% Native American and nearly 77% white can’t be overlooked.
This is America.