Florida Teacher Suspended After Saying Haitian Student Is From ‘Some Third World Island Country’

A teacher in Palm Beach, Florida has been removed from his classroom after being caught on video berating a Haitian student and referring to their home country as some "Third World island country."

Palm Beach Gardens High School said it is investigating the incident after video of the exchange was posted on the Facebook page of a member of the student's family and has been viewed more than 26,000 times as of Friday morning. 

In the video, in which the camera is initially pointed at a student's desk, the teacher can be heard saying to the student: "It's called a door, let me show you how it works." 

“I don’t know how it works where you’re from, down in some Third World island country, where they don’t got them. Let me show you what it’s like in America," the teacher then says. 

The camera moves to show the teacher standing near the door, addressing the student, before appearing to notice the camera and shouting, "Are you—’scuse me," prompting the student filming the incident to stop recording. 

Members of the Haitian community have hit out at the teacher, with Haitian activist and radio host James Leger saying: "That was a racist comment." 

"It's hurtful, and I'm hurt, and the community is hurting," Leger said, adding that his phones were ringing throughout Thursday over the incident.

Speaking with WPTV, the family of the student involved said they approached the school to address the issue, but when no action was taken, they decided to post the video online. 

On Thursday morning, parents reportedly received a phone call from Principle Larry Clawson, saying, "Many of you may have heard media reports of a video circulating of one of our teachers verbally interacting with a student in a potentially inappropriate manner."

He said he was calling to assure parents he is "aware of the video" and that the "matter is being addressed by professional standards." 

"Because this is an open inquiry, I am not at liberty to share any additional details with you, but I wanted to assure you we have processes in place to review incidents like this," Clawson said in the phone call, according to WPTV.

While some have dismissed the teacher's comment, with a handful of people identifying themselves as former students of the teacher calling it a "joke," others maintain his words were plainly racist.

“I couldn’t take that as a joke,” Leger said. “Even if it was a joke that’s gone too far.”

Leger said he was organizing a rally outside of the school for Friday morning at 7a.m., ahead of the start of the school day.

He said protesters are not asking the teacher to be fired, but they do request that a formal apology be given.

"I don't want this to keep happening to other students," Leger said.

Palm Beach Gardens High School has not responded to a request for comment from Newsweek.

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