10:54 AM PDT, May 1, 2021
Howard Zlotkin, a white science teacher at William L. Dickinson High School In New Jersey, has been suspended — with pay — after going on a racist rant where he called George Floyd a criminal. According to the New York Times, his students were on a Google Meet call expecting to hear about climate change, but Zlotkin’s attention shifted.
“He’s not a hero; he’s like a criminal,” he yelled in a video shared with the outlet. He then chastised students for making criminals into heroes “because they’re Black or because they got a bad story.”
A student name Timmia Williams quickly recorded the teacher’s rant and contacted school officials. When they didn’t respond, she contacted the local news station.
Timmia, 17, explains how the incident unfolded. She told the New York Times that an assignment on climate change started everything. “Students submitted short research papers, Ms. Williams said. After she turned hers in, the teacher asked her about how humans are involved in climate change. Eventually, he brought up his disagreement with Black Lives Matter.”
When four Black students challenged his position on the issue, the teacher grew more irate. Zlotkin then gave only those students an essay assignment to write why Black lives should matter. Timmia refused to do the assignment, and that’s when Zlotkin’s rant began.
At one point in the video, the teacher said, “Why? You can’t make a case for yourself. No, you can’t, Timmia, that’s why.” Timmia adds that the teacher began cussing at her, telling her to “talk to the hand,” and even kicked a student off the call who defended his classmates.
“This is the first time I ever felt somebody telling me that my opinion doesn’t matter because I’m young and because I’m Black and stuff. It just threw me off. I just started crying,” Timmia said.
Mussab Ali, the Jersey City Board of Education president, revealed that Mr. Zlotkin had been suspended with pay. “The actions that this teacher took are not representative of a district in the most diverse city in the country,” he explained. He’s also been suspended with pay from his position at Hudson County Community College as an adjunct professor.
When asked about the incident, Mr. Zlotkin said he would “love one day to give my side of the story” and said he couldn’t comment in detail because of the investigation. The teacher also describes the video as a “very well-edited sound bite.”
Margie Nieves, Timmie’s mother, says they have not received an apology or communication from William L. Dickinson High School. “I still feel some type of way because they didn’t solve it right then and there. They waited,” she said.