Summary List Placement
A high-school teacher in Fairbanks, Alaska, has been placed on administrative leave over remarks she made during a class discussion on police killings, KUAC reported.
A video of the discussion — which happened during a virtual class meeting — was posted to YouTube last week.
While school officials have not named the teacher, she is addressed as “Ms. Gardner” in the video, and a Connie Gardner is listed as a special-education teacher on the Lathrop High School website.
She is heard lecturing students about recent police killings, including those of Daunte Wright and Ma’Khia Bryant, arguing that the media disproportionately focuses on incidents involving white officers killing Black suspects, and defending officers for having to make split-second decisions in charged situations.
At one point in the video she turns to the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis last year after a white police officer knelt on him for several minutes. Last month a jury found the former officer Derek Chauvin guilty of Floyd’s murder.
While the teacher said she did “not agree” with Chauvin’s actions, she said Floyd failed to “comply” with officers’ orders to get in the back of a squad car, and that resulted in his death.
“I do not agree that the Chauvin guy was right, I think he abused his authority and I think he went too far. And I think that he was complicit in George Floyd’s death. I think that there were many factors that contributed to it, and that was one of them,” the teacher is heard saying.
“But if George Floyd had … just sidled into the car, slid in there and let them put his legs in, he would be alive today and you know that’s true,” she added.
“So that’s my message to you … If any of you find yourself in a situation where you are — justly or unjustly — being addressed by the police and ordered to do something, please comply. Do not fight the cops. Don’t try to run away.”
The teacher went on to imply that her students were less likely to draw attention from the police because of the way they dressed.
“Here’s the thing too. Look at how you guys are dressed. You guys are dressed nicely, you don’t look like thugs. You don’t have your pants down around your knees,” she said.
Teacher was called out on video
It was then that a woman — who identified herself as a tutor — pushed back on the teacher’s comments, saying that the way someone dresses shouldn’t factor into whether they are targeted by the police.
The woman who recorded the video also spoke up soon after that, identifying herself as a mother who overheard the discussion while her kids were attending the class remotely.
The mother said that she was a woman of color who had experienced racism first hand, and said that the teacher, as a white woman, is “uneducated” and unable “to address these things that are going on in the world today.”
The video ends with the mother telling the teacher to “stop this conversation.”
On Tuesday, KUAC reported that the teacher had been placed on administrative leave. Insider has contacted the school district for an update, and to Connie Gardner for comment.
The school’s principal, Carly Sween, also wrote in a letter to parents last week that the teacher’s comments were “racially insensitive” and that officials had met with students in the class to discuss what happened, KUAC reported.
Columnist comes to teacher’s defense
A columnist for the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman defended the teacher in an op-ed on Friday, saying that she was only preparing her students for the real world.
“The world is a dangerous place — and it can be made more or less dangerous by the things we say and do. And even by the way we dress. Explaining that to children in a way they can understand is difficult and does run the risk that a parent in the room will be offended and go ballistic,” the columnist Tom Brennan wrote.
“But that doesn’t mean teachers shouldn’t attempt to educate their students about the world around them and the risks that they face. It is very important that they understand those things as best they can,” Brennan added.