ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - An Albuquerque high school teacher has been placed on paid leave after being accused of making a “culturally insensitive” remark toward a student, then cutting the hair of another student.
The incident is said to have occurred on Halloween, Wednesday, inside a Cibola High School English teacher’s class.
Albuquerque Public Schools first notified Cibola High parents about the alleged incident in a letter sent out Friday, which described the incident as a “Halloween stunt.”
“We cannot let anyone think that inappropriate words or actions are acceptable,” said APS Executive Director of Communications Monica Armenta, in an interview with KRQE News 13 Friday.
The district says the teacher is alleged to have “made a culturally insensitive remark” to one student, then “snipped the hair” of another student. APS says the teacher was dressed in a Halloween costume and in character when it happened.
The district says the two students impacted by the alleged “inappropriate behavior” told a district employee about it.
The teacher, who hasn’t been identified, was placed on leave Wednesday, shortly after the school’s staff learned of the incident from a district staff member.
“The minute the administrator became aware, we contacted the principal and an investigation followed,” said Armenta.
Students tell KRQE News 13 that the incident has been widely discussed on campus since Wednesday.
“I just hear people saying she should get fired for it,” said Oscar Pera, a Cibola High freshman.
Students also say that the incident was unexpected.
“They said that she grabbed a student's hair and cut her hair and that girl didn't know what was going on,” said Kyle Manuelito, a Cibola High junior.
KRQE News 13 has learned that the two students who were subjected to the teacher's behavior are Native American.
APS says the accused English teacher has been at Cibola High since 2003 and is a “very popular, highly regarded teacher.”
The district says it's still unclear what the circumstances were surrounding the incident, but that the teacher was said to be impersonating a character.
“As part of her reenactment of this person, the words and actions followed,” said Armenta.
The district says the teacher will stay on leave while they investigate.
“We offer our sincerest apologies to anyone who's grappling with this incident," said Armenta.
The district isn't releasing the teacher's name while it investigates. They are also not saying what character the teacher was dressed up as when the incident happened.
APS says its district police department is leading the investigation, but they’re unsure how long the investigation will take.