A math teacher in Southern California has been put on leave after videos posted online showed her wearing a headdress and imitating an indigenous dance during a lesson.
The video appears to have been recorded by a student in Riverside, Calif., during math lessons and posted on social media by another person. CNN has repeatedly attempted to contact the person who posted the video online.
In the video, a teacher is seen wearing a headdress made of paper imitating feathers and dancing around the classroom saying “sohkatoa” – a mantra used to memorize sine, cosine and tangent, Which are the three main tasks in trigonometry.
At one point, the video shows the teacher making references to the “rock god” and “water goddess”.
In a statement on Thursday, the Riverside Unified School District confirmed that one of its teachers was seen in the video and was placed on leave during an investigation.
The district did not identify the teacher. CNN has contacted the teachers union and teacher for comment, but has not received a response.
“These practices are completely unacceptable and are an offensive depiction of vast and vast Native American cultures and practices,” District said. “Her actions do not represent the values of our district.”
The district noted its commitment to implementing “inclusive practices and policies” and said it would work to regain the trust of the school community.
Crystal Echo Hawk, founder and executive director of Illuminative, a leading group focused on increasing the visibility of Indigenous peoples, said the teacher’s behavior was “extremely abusive and unacceptable”.
Echo Hawke said in a statement, “The behavior displayed by this California teacher is incredibly damaging to Native youth. We must set a high standard of training for teachers to prevent racism and discrimination in the classroom – especially by the faculty.”
Eco Hawk said the incident is an example of the need for cultural competency training for teachers and how indigenous history is underrepresented and misrepresented in classrooms across the country.