California Mom Sues School District After 30-Minute Racist Rant by Teacher on Zoom

The family of a Black sixth-grader is suing the Palmdale School District of southern California after a teacher allegedly delivered a racist 30-minute rant using the Zoom video conferencing app.

Katura Stokes said that on January 20, a science teacher named Kimberly Newman ranted at her and her son, a student at the Desert Willow Fine Arts, Science and Technology Magnet Academy. The rant allegedly occurred after the two met with Newman on Zoom to ask about her son's difficulties accessing some of the school's online educational tools.

In a video of the alleged rant recorded on Stokes' cell phone and later provided to KCBS-TV by her attorney, Newman reportedly said, "These parents, that's what kind of pieces of shit they are. Black, he's Black, they're a Black family." Newman reportedly made the comment to her spouse, unaware that the Zoom call had continued broadcasting from her computer's camera.

"Your son has learned to lie to everybody," Newman allegedly said at another point. "You've taught him to make excuses that nothing is his fault. This is what Black people do, this is what Black people do. White people do it too, but Black people do it way more."

Katura Stokes Palmdale school teacher racist Zoom
The family of a Black sixth-grade student is suing the Palmdale School District after a teacher allegedly delivered a racist 30-minute rant that was recorded through the Zoom video conferencing app. In this photo illustration, a Black woman opens in her mouth in shock at something she has viewed on the open laptop in front of her. RollingCamera/Getty

Stoke's attorney Neil Gehlawat said that Stokes felt such disbelief at the rant, that she called the school's principal to let the principal hear as the rant continued.

At some point, a school staff person allegedly called Newman mid-rant and asked, "You know there's a parent that's been recording this? Have you been making obscenities and profanities and saying these things about a student?" Newman allegedly denied that she had and then exited out of the Zoom call, Gehlawat told KTLA.

In February, the Palmdale School District held a news conference in which district spokesman David Garcia called the behavior "[the] gross, professional misconduct of a now-former Palmdale teacher," the Antelope Valley Press reported.

Barely an hour after the call, Newman was ordered to go to the District office to face Palmdale Superintendent Raul Maldonado, the aforementioned publication said.

A district spokesperson said that Newman allegedly refused to view the recording and said that she would rather resign than undergo an investigation about the incident. Newman was immediately put on paid administrative leave and resigned three days later.

The district subsequently apologized to the family and offered counseling to Stokes and her son.

Stokes' attorney John C. Taylor told KTLA that the incident highlighted the experience of countless Black students who are discriminated against just for the color of their skin.

In addition to seeking compensatory damages, Stokes is seeking increased racial sensitivity training for the teachers at the school as well as an audit of the grades and criticisms of students who were taught by the teacher in question, Taylor told Newsweek. The suit also seeks "other equitable relief," he added.

Newsweek contacted the Palmdale School District and Gehlawat for comment.

Update (3/30/2021, 12:03 a.m.): This article has been updated to include a statement from Taylor.