A high school teacher from Southern California was placed on leave after being caught on camera wearing a headdress and imitating a Native American dance.

A video went viral showing a teacher at John W. North High School in Riverside Unified School District chanting “SOH-CAH-TOA,” a mnemonic for remembering a trigonometry principle while wearing a headdress and dancing. The teacher’s name has yet to be released.



The district took swift action and placed the teacher on leave immediately after the video came out.

“These behaviors are completely unacceptable and an offensive depiction of the vast and expansive Native American cultures and practices,” the district said in a statement. “Her actions do not represent the values of our district.”

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Laura Boling, president of the Riverside City Teachers Association, spoke out to say how disappointed she is over this entire situation.

“We care deeply about all our students and do not condone actions that alienate, hurt, and threaten Indigenous students’ learning environment,” she told the Los Angeles Times.

“People are upset, people are a little angry with what happened because it’s just so disrespectful to our youth,” added Dee Dee Manzanares Ybarra, the director of the American Indian Movement’s Southern California chapter and tribal chair of the Rumšen Am:a Tur:ataj Ohlone. “We’re tired of being made fun of. We’re not a joke. We’re not a costume.”

This comes weeks after California became the first state in the country to require an ethnic studies class to graduate high school. The bill. to make this happen was authored by Jose Medina, a Democratic assemblyman in Riverside.

“It is damaging and disheartening to see Native American and indigenous culture represented in such a trite and insensitive way,” Medina and other members said in a statement, according to USA Today. “This is not an isolated incident, as such teaching practices have been used across the nation. It is time that we stop this behavior.”


Sisters Arisbeth and Besibeth Chavez, freshmen at John W. North, both participated in a protest against the teacher.

“We were shocked, disgusted, and disappointed … I didn’t think this would happen where we live,” Besibeth said.

Akalei Brown, who posted the video online and is Native herself, said that the video left her shaking.

“I felt it necessary to share this video with the world so they could have a small glimpse into the type of abuses. Native children face in U.S. schools every day,” Brown said. “This is reality for Native people in the U.S., and we’re not going to take it sitting down anymore.”