A Queens high school principal has drawn the ire of community members after allegedly making racially charged remarks about several employees.
Parents and teachers protested outside the New York City Department of Education on Monday, demanding authorities immediately investigate the situation, CBS New York reports. In addition, a Change.org petition calling for the termination of the principal has garnered more than 1,000 signatures.
Minerva Zanca, the principal of Pan American International High School, allegedly targeted several black teachers who recently filed complaints with the Department of Education Office of Equal Opportunity, according to the Queens Tribune.
Two of the teachers, who were fired, say they were victims of harassment and that their poor performance ratings were a result of racial discrimination. Another teacher, who quit, said she also felt targeted because of her race.
In a witness statement, the school’s assistant principal, Anthony Riccardo confirmed their claims. He said Zanca called the teachers “gorillas” and made comments about their “big lips” and “nappy hair,” according to WNYC.
“We’re the only African-American teachers, and all three of us have left – which means there is no African-American teachers at the school when over half the population of the students look like us,” Lisa-Erika James, the teacher who quit, told CBS New York.
“We really just want them to hold the principal accountable for her actions,” John Flanagan, who was fired, told DNAinfo.
When asked about the allegations, Department of Education spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said the matter was under investigation, but she would not elaborate.
“I can say the principal has had no prior investigations of her,” Feinberg told the Huffington Post.
Pan American International High School serves immigrant students who have been in the country for less than four years, according to Inside Schools. Ninety-one percent of the students are English-language learners.