A Spring Valley family is hoping for changes at a local school after they claim a teacher has been making racist comments for months.
“I dreaded going to class. I just didn’t want to be there anymore,” Kendra Ethridge, a student at Helix Charter High in La Mesa, told 10News.
Ethridge said her class is comprised of nearly 30 students, almost all of them are minorities, and her teacher is a white male.
More than a month into classes, she said the teacher made an odd comment.
“He said, ‘Us white guys have to stick together,’ in response to some random comment from a student,” Ethridge said.
Ethridge, who has a white mother and African American father, said the comments have become increasingly offensive.
“He made a comment about selling our finals only to white people. Once he said to a student, ‘You can’t be in our group because you’re black,’” Ethridge said.
At times, Ethridge said her teacher said the comments with a laugh. Sometimes he didn’t.
“Sometimes they came several times a week. It was disrespectful, downright disrespectful to me and my peers,” Ethridge said.
In one case, Ethridge said the equation "K3" came up during a lesson, leading to her teacher spelling out "KKK" and talking about the Ku Klux Klan.
“He said he had a KKK robe. He said he had friends and family in the KKK. Around Halloween, when a student dressed as a Black Panther activist, he said he wished he had brought his robe so they could take a photo together,” Ethridge said.
Ethridge said her teacher wasn't shy about bringing up the group's deeds, and that he once commented, "'They take out deadbeat dads and men who beat children. Well then, isn’t it okay to kill black people.'”
When she told her father, her father told her to record the teacher.
“This should not be going on right now,” Daryl Ethridge said choking back tears.
Ethridge said she did, recording a statement as he was talking about getting lost on a trip to Tijuana.
“One of the girls says, ’Why is that so scary?’ He said, ‘I was surrounded by Mexicans,’” Ethridge said.
10News listened to the recording and confirmed those statements were made in Ethridge's recording.
In mid-December outside class, Ethridge’s father said he confronted the teacher and recorded also recorded the discussion. He said in the recording, one of the teacher’s responses was that the classroom comments were, "'all lighthearted.'”
Ethridge's father said he doesn't buy that response.
“He had a smirk on his face. It didn’t seem genuine … I think he is dangerous and I think what makes him dangerous is he’s ignorant to the things he’s saying,” Daryl Ethridge said.
Ethridge added that she thinks the teacher shouldn't be teaching anymore.
“He shouldn't be teaching … saying racist comments is going to make students think it's ok,” Ethridge said.
Her family said their daughter is coming forward because racism needs to be out in the open.
“This is for every student for can’t speak and every student who is afraid to speak up,” Daryl said.
The family said they have met with administrators and that an investigation has begun.
“They told us this was the first time they had heard about it, but one parent came to us and told us they also complained about racial comments five years ago,” Daryl said.
He said his daughter has transferred out of the class.
“I don’t think we are going to stay in the school, because she just doesn’t feel safe. She’s dealing with some anxiety from this,” he said.
Students tell us the teacher has been absent for days, but the school declined to comment on it, citing privacy. 10News isn’t naming the teacher, because the investigation is ongoing.
Ethridge’s father said he hopes the school will consider starting an advisory board of parents and students to explore diversity issues.
Helix Charter High School issued a written statement:
“While Helix Charter High School is not at liberty to discuss confidential personnel information, please be assured that the School takes any complaints against personnel seriously and is committed to fair and thorough investigation and resolution of any such matters.
The School’s actions in such matters are guided by what is lawful and, of course, in the best interest of Helix Charter High School students.
Any inquiries regarding Helix Charter High School staff should be directed to the attention of the Executive Director’s office.”