Upstate New York teachers put on leave after offensive texts

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — Several public school teachers in Rochester were put on leave after exchanging text messages that made “racist and demeaning” references to students, officials said Friday.

The Democrat and Chronicle reported the teachers worked at Enrico Fermi School 17, which has a large percentage of Black and Hispanic students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

“I am horrified at the racist and demeaning references and language used to describe children … our children! The staff members have been put on leave and the District will use all forms of available discipline up to and including termination,” Rochester City School District Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small said in a prepared statement.

Students discovered a series of texts, including one containing an obscenity that wished one girl would beat another up. Another obscene text suggested an automated call that insulted children and their parents, according to the newspaper.

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The discovery comes weeks after Rochester school officials said they were investigating allegations that a white teacher told his seventh-grade class of mostly Black students to pick seeds out of cotton and put on handcuffs during lessons on slavery.

Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski said he did not know how many teachers had been accused in this latest episode.

“I want to make it clear that we strongly believe that everyone, and especially our students, are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect,” he said. “We are also committed to fairness and due process and the investigation is still ongoing.”