Reacting to allegations of language as astounding as it is repulsive, an appropriately diverse group of educators, union activists, parents, students, and politicos gathered on the steps of Tweed Courthouse, head quarters of NYC Department of Education, to demand an “an immediate, rapid and unbiased investigation by the Chancellor’s office into allegations that Minerva Zanka, a Queens principal called African American teachers she was firing “big lipped,” “nappy haired,” and “gorillas.” The rally drew significant media coverage, including ABC News.
The terminated teachers, John Flanagan and Heather Hightower who until recently taught at Pan American International High School in Elmhurst, Queens, related their stories before a passionately supportive gathering.
Members of various groups including the Movement for Rank and File Educators ( MORE ) spoke in support of the two teachers. Missing from the rally was Assistant Principal Anthony Ricardo to whom Zanka made the alleged statements. In typical DOE fashion, instead of being commended for his ethical actions, Ricardo himself was reportedly told to find work elsewhere. The DOE under Bloomberg is notorious for protecting principals no matter what they do, often warehousing them as assistant principals in different schools or finding work for them at Tweed at enormous cost to taxpayer.
Flanagan, Hightower and Ricardo are all deserving of the support of all people of good faith. Anything less than an immediate investigation into this incident would render the DOE, despite its often-lofty rhetoric, complicit in outright racism.