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Arlington teacher 'relieved of classroom duties' for using George Floyd's death in chemistry assignment

The superintendent of Arlington Public Schools, Dr. Francisco Durán, said the incident violated APS' "core values."

ARLINGTON, Va. — A high school teacher in northern Virginia has been relieved of his teaching duties after he referenced the death of George Floyd in a chemistry assignment. 

The Washington Post reported Thursday that the Arlington teacher asked students to insert the name of a chemical element to complete a sentence regarding how the Black man died in Minneapolis police custody. 

The sentence read: "George Floyd couldn't breathe because a police officer put his" blank "George's neck." 

The answer to the blank was the chemical element "neon." 

The superintendent of Arlington Public Schools, Dr. Francisco Durán, said the incident violated APS' "core values" and reinforces the continued work the school district needs to do to create a safe learning environment for all students and teachers.  

"As part of a class exercise, an H-B Woodlawn teacher shared an example with students that showed significant racial insensitivity," Durán said in a letter to families and staff. "The content referenced the killing of George Floyd in an unacceptable and senseless way, which hurt and alarmed our students, staff, families, and the community. The reference showed extremely poor judgment and a blatant disregard for African American lives." 

Durán said the unnamed teacher had been "relieved of classroom duties" pending further investigation. 

"We must continue to work to ensure that our delivery of the curriculum is free of culturally or racially insensitive language that in any way adversely affects students," Durán said. "We will continue to focus on providing professional learning opportunities geared to enabling teachers to use specific prejudice reduction curricula, materials, and techniques in the classroom. We commit to continued steps to foster open dialogue and to provide meaningful and ongoing diversity and inclusion training for our educators." 


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