Teacher Allegedly Called Black Students ‘Rats,’ School District to Take Action

Screenshot from WJAX video via DiversityInc

A Florida teacher will face the consequences for making racist remarks against Black fourth-grade students at Carter G. Woodson Elementary — a school named for the father of African American history. The teacher called the children “rats” and said an early death or jail was in their future.

Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) said last week it will “take appropriate action in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement when school resumes for the 2017-2018 school year,” according to WJAX.

Following an investigation, DCPS district officials found enough evidence to substantiate further action against Carter G. Woodson Elementary School teacher Jordan Cataldo, who is white. The news channel noted that DCPS would not confirm the teacher’s name.

The school district said that “there was enough evidence reviewed by the district that substantiates further action; however, we cannot elaborate on an action that has yet to be defined.”

In May, Carter G. Woodson parent Tiera Ross summarized Cataldo’s alleged comments. Ross said her daughter and a group of Black girls were trying to return to the classroom, but the door was locked.

“[My daughter] said they were knocking on the door,” Ross said.

Cataldo allegedly told a group of students in the classroom,  “Don’t let the rats back in the class to infest the class.”

Ross’ daughter said the teacher elaborated on her thoughts.

“[The teacher said], ‘They’re only going to amount to be a bunch of ratchet Walmart workers,’ and ‘That’s why their race is either dead or in jail,’” Ross said. “So then I was kind of outraged about the comments that were made.”

Duval County has a population of more than 900,000, and the median household income is $47,690. DCPS has confirmed it is going into the 2017-18 school year with $12 million less than expected but plans to cover the money lost.

Carter G. Woodson Elementary School is located in Jacksonville. It has approximately 600 students, and 97.7 percent of the student population identifies as Black. Students who come from low-income families account for 80 percent of Carter G. Woodson, according to GreatSchools.org.

On average, a school in Jacksonville consists of approximately 41.7 percent Black students. The population of Jacksonville is 59.4 percent white, 30.7 percent Black, 7.7 percent Latino, 4.3 percent Asian and less than 1 percent American Indian. The median income per household is $46,764.

If it was indeed a group of Black girls who were chastised, that coincides with a report released last month that Black girls in the U.S. are disciplined more frequently and more severely than white girls.

The study finds substantial bias toward Black girls beginning at age five.

Girl Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood,” published by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality last week, states a study found that adults view Black girls as more adult-like than their white peers, especially in the age range of 5–14.

“What we found is that adults see Black girls as less innocent and less in need of protection as white girls of the same age,” said Rebecca Epstein, the lead author. “This new evidence of what we call the ‘adultification’ of Black girls may help explain why Black girls in America are disciplined much more often and more severely than white girls — across our schools and in our juvenile justice system.”

Ross told WJAX that she wants Cataldo fired for the treatment of the students.

“I’m so infuriated inside that I want to cry, but I’m not,” she said. “I’m going to be strong enough for my daughter to make sure that the situation is taken care of.”

Cataldo has not yet made public comments.

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