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Baltimore Sun - June 12

Page history last edited by Jeff Ecc 14 years, 5 months ago

source:  http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/ktla-karen-dalazar-jordan-high,0,6702238.story


Teacher Dismissed Over Malcolm X Assignment

WATTS -- Students and teachers are supporting a Jordan High School teacher who was fired for being too "Afro-centric".

About 60 students rallied at the Watts campus Wednesday to protest the dismissal of second-year english teacher Karen Salazar. A colleague of Salazar said he and 15 other instructors planned to resign or transfer to other schools because of her termination.

Some Salazar backers have even turned to the popular website YouTube, with postings that include statements from the outspoken educator.

"You embody what it means to be a warrior-scholar, a freedom-fighting intellectual," she told students through a bullhorn in one video. "You are part of the long legacy, the strong history, of fighting back."

In another instance, Salazar rips the Los Angeles Unified School District, saying, "This school system for too long has been not only denying them human rights, basic human rights, but doing it on purpose in order to keep them subservient, to subjugate them in society."

A union official said Salazar was criticized for being too "Afro-centric" in her teachings. Salazar claims an assistant principal accused her of brainwashing students and forcing extremist views on them.

Her course materials include "The Autobiography of Malcolm X", which is approved for students. Salazar, 25, also sprinkles in lyrics of slain rapper Tupac Shakur and the poetry of Langston Hughes.

Salazar admits she often strays from the lesson plan.

"We are left out of the curriculum, our studetns went through the world history book, they've gone through their literature books, and about 95 percent of the material has nothing to do with people of color", she told KTLA.

Students say Ms. Salazar provokes them to think through the issues, like whether race should matter in the presidential election.

"We actually debate on stuff in that classroom - it's a very fun class but we aslo learn stuff", said Jordan High School student Ramona Lucas.

Salazar holds a political science degree from UCLA with minors in African American studies and Chicano studies. She recently completed a master's in education at UCLA.

She also served as faculty advisor for campus student activists who wanted to pass out surveys about the school and students' education. Unlike at other schools, Principal Stephen G. Strachan forbade the distribution of surveys on campus.

A veteran teacher assigned to mentor Salazar took issue with the negative characterization of Salazar's teaching.

"I did not see the same things that the administrator said he saw," said Miranda Manners, who observed the same lesson during a different class period. "I saw a new, young teacher teaching her lesson according to the objectives she stated on the board. I saw her engage with her students and interacting with them in a very positive way."

"She's one of the teachers that needs to stay here," said junior Deysy Ruiz, 16, who estimated that at least half of her teachers had been ineffective by comparison.

Principal Strachan said that administrators never accused Ms. Salazar of "brainwashing". In a statement, Senior Deputy Superintendent Ray Cortines backed the principal up, saying "The principal was exactly right in removing the teacher. She was presenting material to the students in ways that do not meet state standards."

Salazar, who was informed of her pending dismissal in April, needed at least one more year of service to earn district tenure, which limits her recourse.

"I think she was a terrific teacher, who had a real connection with kids, but teachers in her position have a hard time winning these battles," said Joshua Pechthalt, a vice president with United Teachers Los Angeles.


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