A South Florida reading teacher accused of calling a Haitian student "little chocolate boy" and "chocolate nobody wanted" will be suspended.
Leslie Rainer, 46, was ordered suspended for 10 days without pay Tuesday following a hearing with the Broward County School Board, more than three times the duration Superintendent Robert Runcie had initially recommended.
“If you allow that instructor to remain in the classroom, she's risky business," the Haitian-American Coalition's Jean Robert La Fortune told the board, arguing for Rainer's dismissal before a vote was taken.
Rainer is accused of making the comments, some of which were captured on video, on the job last May at Pompano Beach Blanche Ely High School. In an administrative complaint, Runcie said Rainer, who is black, has a history of "inappropriate conduct towards her part-Haitian, minority descent students" and had already been verbally counseled about such matters.
She previously "made a statement to a student that, 'I wish they would put you in a boat and send you back where you came from.'...[she also] told a student to stand in the corner near a garbage can because 'that's where he belongs,"' the complaint reads.
Runcie writes that Rainer made the "chocolate" comments despite the previous warnings. According to the administrative complaint (read the complaint here):
On or about May 6, 2011, Respondent Rainer, a high school teacher, engaged in inappropriate conduct by pointing a pointer in a Haitian student's face in a threatening manner and making the statement, "look little chocolate boy." Rainer also told the student, P.S., that he was "chocolate nobody wanted." Rainer has also screamed at P.S. to "shut up." P.S. recorded Rainer on video pointing the pointer at him and making the statement, "you got one time, chocolate," with the classroom subsequently erupting in laughter.
Rainer insisted the whole affair was a misunderstanding, telling reporters after the hearing that "the kid is not a Haitian" but a relative of her husband. Previously, she argued the video should not be used against her as students are banned from using electronics in the classroom. She also claimed a clip was altered, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and told WPTV last month that she was referring to actual pieces of chocolate on her desk.
"I exhibit nothing but professionalism," she told School Board members before the decision. "I'm very moral, I'm very stable."
Rainer also said she has been unfairly targeted by a principal -- apparently alleging that she is facing retaliation for a 2010 incident in which school officials claimed that she and another teacher pretended to sprinkle liquid "holy water" on an atheist teacher in front of a class. Though the School Board later backed off that accusation, Rainer and fellow teacher Djuna Robinson were investigated for making traumatizing remarks to students about the Haiti earthquake before being reinstated.
"The whole thing is a misunderstanding from the principal," she told assembled reporters after the hearing. But the district's head of human resources Gracie Diaz backed up the complaint's allegations.
"It appears very clear in the video, with the anger and the tone, that it was directed to a student," Diaz told the Sun-Sentinel.