A Los Angeles schoolteacher allegedly used a racial slur and made racist remarks about black people in class, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of a mixed-race student against LA Unified School District last week.
But dozens of parents and students are defending the eighth-grade instructor at Paul Revere Charter Middle School and Magnet Center in LA's Westside as a good, culturally sensitive teacher after he was removed from the classroom pending a review of the accusations.
The teacher, identified in the lawsuit as Steven Carnine, allegedly used the N-word in a lesson about the Civil War and denigrated Michael Brown, the teenager whose death in Ferguson, Missouri sparked a national conversation about crime and race, according to the lawsuit, filed in LA Superior Court Wednesday, March 18.
"That guy was a thug and got what he deserved," the suit accuses Carnine of saying in class, along with other stereotypes about black people and Jews.
The school district said the teacher named in the suit had been removed from the classroom, but did not comment on the lawsuit. It accuses administrators of brushing aside the concerns of the student, who is half white and half black, and her family.
"District policy is adamant that all students are to be treated with respect. The safety of students is L.A. Unified’s highest priority," an LAUSD statement read.
Students and parents rallied in support of Carnine Monday morning, describing him as a dedicated teacher who celebrated Martin Luther King Day and Hannukah.
"I had him as my sixth grade History and English teacher and the whole time I had him he was not racist at all," student Jamie Mazur said. "He was probably the best teacher I've ever had."
Parents echoed her sentiments.
"It's very hurtful and they're very, very upset and tehy know he would never say anything like that and I feel he was unjustly accused," said Kelly Aluise
The lawsuit accuses Carnine of making racially insensitive comments during a lesson on the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when he allegedly said, "black people are judged for not being smart because they are not smart. A lot of them are just athletes."
Two weeks later, Carnine allegedly smirked at the student when using the N-word to explain why people didn't like President Abraham Lincoln -- the same day Principal Christopher Perdigao heard concerns about the teacher from the girl's parents, according to the suit.
Perdigao did not reply to a request for comment.
In an online petition supporting Carnine, a student who said she was in the class said he was describing historical stereotypes and quoting others, not stating his own beliefs. She also said Carnine never used the N-word and said the teacher believed Michael Brown did not deserve to be harassed by police.
The suit seeks damages for emotional distress for having her civil rights violated.