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Island Coast teacher on leave while district investigates alleged comments heard in student-captured viral videos

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Feb 18, 2021

An investigation is underway at Island Coast High School after a student posted a TikTok video that drew criticism on alleged remarks made by the instructor during an AP class that addressed such topics as slavery and hate speech.

The teacher has been put on leave and School District of Lee County officials are looking into the matter.

According to District spokesperson Rob Spicker, district investigators were on campus Tuesday to gather statements as students and staff returned from the President’s Day holiday.

“Until the investigative process is complete it will be inappropriate for us to comment any further,” Spicker said.

District 1 Board Member Mary Fischer said she was aware of the short video clips and had watched them, adding they were difficult to understand when viewing them on her phone.

“It’s under investigation, so I cannot make any further comments,” she said.

Two videos were posted on the popular social media platform on Saturday, and a third on Sunday. As of Thursday, more than 1.7 million people had viewed the first video.

The video was posted by a student who recorded some of the discussion during class. Part of that discussion heard the teacher asking what white people would do to slaves, with a student answering, “They would crack the slaves with the whips.”

The teacher could heard off-camera replying, “They wouldn’t do that to slaves.”

The student who posted the video then asked, “How do you know, where you there?”

The teacher could be heard answering, “Let me help you out, or kick you out. If you want to have an honest conversation, let’s have an honest conversation.”

The second video, which also stayed focused 02on the student in selfie-mode, also had questions in the background, again allegedly from the teacher, regarding a racial slur. “If I am calling them the N-word, what am I calling them?” could be heard on the video.

The teacher reportedly said, “The N-word just means ignorant. It does not have any other meaning in any other vocabulary other than you are a stupid person. You are ignorant. You are not well read. You are not well educated.”

District 5 Board Member Gwyn Gittens said although she is not judging either one of them, the teacher and student, because she was not there, she believes everyone has to learn from what happened.

“What can we learn from this situation that has gone viral? Can we learn that we may need to do a better job of training, I don’t know,” Gittens said. “We have an equity and diversity department that does training for all of our staff. Maybe we need more.”

She also asked if they need to be more tolerant.

“Do we need to be more transparent with our training? The scary thing is it is systematic and we need to learn from it,” Gittens said.

She said her “teachers heart and background in psychology” tells her that the conversation was bothering the student, as you could see in his face and nervous laugh that he was uncomfortable.

“Just like COVID, we have to learn from it. It’s a terrible, horrible thing. You make a mistake, but if you don’t learn from it you are going to keep making it,” Gittens said.

— Reporter CJ Haddad contributed to this report.