Oxford Preparatory Academy investigating complaint that teacher had an African American student demonstrate a hanging.
MISSION VIEJO – An Oxford Preparatory Academy teacher is on unpaid leave while the public charter school investigates a complaint that the teacher had an African American student demonstrate a hanging during a Civil War re-enactment field trip, officials said.
The eighth-grade teacher was put on leave after the student’s mother complained to school officials, alleging the teacher volunteered her son for the demonstration.
The mother said a noose was placed around her son’s neck, an allegation that was brought to the attention of OC Human Relations, a nonprofit council that works to eliminate prejudice and discrimination.
Rusty Kennedy, CEO and executive director of OC Human Relations, said he joined the student’s family to meet with school officials last week.
“Hangings, like cross burnings, are incredible symbols of hate and bigotry and oppression of African Americans,” Kennedy said. “They are symbols that have huge meaning and were designed to terrorize and subjugate people.
“In this case it appears a complete lack of understanding of how powerful and how hurtful those symbols are, is really, I think, what we’re talking about,” he said.
Oxford Preparatory Academy is a charter school in Capistrano Unified School District, though the district does not have oversight of the school.
Attorney Keith Fink, who represents the school, said the teacher’s rights must be observed while the mother’s allegation is investigated.
“We have to conduct an investigation to see what the teacher’s view is of the incidents and make the proper decision vis-a-vis their determination as to the facts,” he said.
The teacher was placed on leave last week after the allegations were brought to the school’s executive director, Sue Roche, Fink said.
The teacher could not be reached for comment this week. The student’s mother declined to discuss her complaint.
Oxford Preparatory Academy spokeswoman Erika Schulte said the charter school followed its procedure and took action within 24 hours of learning of the allegation.
The teacher will remain on leave until the investigation is complete, and it’s not clear how long that will take, Schulte said.
Interviews are underway with school officials and parents of students who were on the field trip, Fink said.
OXFORD PREPARATORY ACADEMY STUDENT POPULATION
The latest state data available show that of the school’s 776 students in 2012-13:
• Two identify as African American
• Three as American Indian or Alaska native
• Eight as Filipino
• 52 students as two or more races
• 90 as Asian
• 104 as Hispanic or Latino
• 517 as white
Source: California Department of Education
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