A school psychologist in New Orleans is under fire for posting racially inflammatory comments online amid a debate about the school system's treatment of black and special education students.
The Jefferson Parish school system is investigating Mark Traina after some of his postings -- including “Young Black Thugs who won’t follow the law need to be put down not incarcerated. Put down like the Dogs they are!” -- were highlighted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.
Traina's comments - including “Serpas should be warning people to STAY THE HELL OUT OF NEW ORLEANS! These Black Dudes will Kill You!” - were posted on his Twitter feed and on the NOLA.com Website. In an April Tweet, he wrote that 17-year-old Trayvon Martin's killer George Zimmerman was "the real victim and held his ground."
The civil rights group complained to the U.S. Department of Education about Traina's comments the day after filing a federal complaint against the Jefferson Parish Public Schools for alleged discrimination against black students, reports WWL-TV. The SPLC claims that black students are disproportionately referred to alternative schools for minor cases of misconduct such as disrespectful behavior and use of profanity. Though they make up less than half of the student body, black students make up 78 percent of the referrals.
The fact that Traina, who works with troubled students in the district, posted such racially provocative comments provides further evidence of this discrimination, SPLC lawyer Eden Heilman tells the Times-Picayune. Traina told the paper in his defense that his comments are personal and "don't represent the Jefferson Parish school system." Traina wrote, according to the Times-Picayune:
"This is just another way to harass the Jefferson Parish Public School System. One only needs to read the Times Picayune to see who the real trouble makers are. Sadly, it is disproportionately young black males. Everyone knows that our jails throughout the United States are disproportionately filled with black people. Why would the rate be any different in an educational environment?
"Even one of the best known Civil Rights Activists in America recently indicated (I won't mention any names) that it is MUCH safer to walk through a predominately white neighborhood after dark than in black neighborhood," he wrote.