So long as young Karen Salazar wasn't advocating violence but only learning the different views people hold on issues, why, and how to think through problems, she was doing her job educating the children into becoming problem-addressing and -solving adults. Of course, that is a firing offense in America right now.
By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 12, 2008
Students and fellow educators are rallying behind a fired Jordan High School teacher they say was sacked for encouraging political activism among her students.
About 60 students rallied Wednesday at the Watts campus, while a colleague of the fired teacher said he and 15 other instructors planned to resign or transfer to other schools to protest the dismissal of Karen Salazar, a second-year English teacher.
The dust-up has gone digital as well. Salazar backers have posted videos on the website YouTube. The postings, which have attracted thousands of hits, intersperse music, outraged protesters and interviews, as well as statements from the outspoken educator.
"You embody what it means to be a warrior-scholar, a freedom-fighting intellectual," she told students through a bullhorn in one video. "You are part of the long legacy, the strong history, of fighting back."
In another instance, Salazar rips the Los Angeles Unified School District, saying, "This school system for too long has been not only denying them human rights, basic human rights, but doing it on purpose in order to keep them subservient, to subjugate them in society."
A union official said the critique against Salazar included a statement that her teaching was too "Afro-centric." An assistant principal, in his evaluation of a particular lesson, accused Salazar of brainwashing students, according to Salazar and others.
Her course materials include "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," which is approved for students. Salazar, 25, also sprinkles in lyrics of slain rapper Tupac Shakur and the poetry of Langston Hughes.
Salazar's political science degree from UCLA includes minors in African American studies and Chicano studies. She recently completed a master's in education at UCLA.
Salazar served as faculty advisor for campus student activists who wanted to pass out surveys about the school and students' education. Unlike at other schools, Principal Stephen G. Strachan forbade the distribution of surveys on campus.
Salazar said Strachan also accused her of starting a separate student activist group that demanded more culturally relevant courses as well as accurate, up-to-date student records. Some students have complained that transcript errors result in them being placed in the wrong classes.