Mom takes legal action after LA teacher accidentally goes on racist rant on Zoom

The educator was initially placed on administrative leave and resigned three days later

The Palmdale School District is facing a lawsuit by the mother of a Black sixth-grader over a teacher’s racist rant that was recorded over Zoom.

The child attends Desert Willow Fine Arts, Science and Technology Magnet Academy in Palmdale, Calif. His mother, Katura Stokes, said her son was struggling with transitioning to online learning amid the pandemic, and couldn’t access the virtual platform to complete class assignments, NBC News Los Angeles reports. According to her complaint, administrators told her to follow up with the boy’s teacher, who scheduled a Zoom call with Stokes and her son on January 20.

The virtual conference ended with the science instructor, identified in the complaint as Kimberly Newman, assurring Stokes’ son that he was caught up with all his assignments.

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“Given her son’s struggles, Ms Stokes was very pleased to hear this,” the complaint states. “What followed was something Ms. Stokes and her son could have never imagined.”

Newman failed to sign off after their Zoom session ended and Stokes was left stunned when she exploded in a “racist, inflammatory rant” about the boy and his mother. Stokes recorded the disparaging comments for more than a half-hour because she figured no one would believe her, the complaint states.

“These parents, that’s what kind of pieces of s— they are. Black, he’s Black, they’re a Black family,” Newman can be heard saying in video provided by Stokes’ attorney to CBSLA.  

“You’ve taught him to make excuses that nothing is his fault,” she continues. “This is what Black people do, this is what Black people do. White people do it too, but Black people do it way more.”

Stokes’ attorney Neil Gehlawat, said the video “clearly shows that unequal educational experiences for minority students exist. Like many parents whose children have struggled to transition to online schooling during the pandemic, Ms. Stokes reached out for help — and, in return, she discovered that her son was being treated unfairly because of the color of his skin.”

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Stokes called the school principal to complain about Newman’s racist tirade. When she was confronted by school officials, Newman initially denied making profane comments — until she saw the Zoom footage. The educator was placed on administrative leave and resigned three days later.
Zoom app / Getty

“The horrible comments the teacher made in the video are truly heartbreaking for a mother to hear and for her young son to hear,” said attorney John C. Taylor, who reportedly also represents the claimant.

“It’s unthinkable that an educator would mock and belittle this family and there is no doubt that this incident has scarred them,” he said. “All children are entitled to receive an educational experience free of discrimination and this video has demonstrated what minority students often face behind the scenes today.”

In a statement to FOX11 Los Angeles, district officials said, “Palmdale School District has never and will never tolerate any racist behavior or speech.”

“Ms. Stokes is concerned about her son’s ability to a get ‘fair shake’ at school since … other teachers appear to share similar feelings about he and Ms. Stokes,” the complaint says.

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