Leslie RainerLeslie Rainer is one of those people. You and I both know them. The kind who seem to be always embroiled in some sort of controversy and stay the subject of whispered conversations among their peers. Now the beleaguered Florida educator is making national news after she allegedly told a Haitian student in her class that he “looks [like a] little chocolate boy…a chocolate that nobody wanted.”

The exchange was reportedly caught on video but Rainer vehemently denies the accusations, saying she’s being targeted because some colleagues are still salty over a little stunt she pulled last year when she—wait for it—pretended to throw holy water on an atheist colleague. Awww shucks. That done did it. I’m quite sure she doesn’t have the favor of her co-workers as the wind beneath her wings after that kind of foolish. Boundaries, Leslie, boundaries.   

After review of her case yesterday, the Broward School Board voted 8-1 in favor of a 10-day unpaid suspension, which was originally proposed to be three days but increased by Superintendent Robert Runcie. I appreciate his moxie, but it still doesn’t seem like enough compared to Rainer’s repeat offenses.   

When you 1) put down a kid 2) in front of their fellow students 3) because of their ethnicity, race, or culture, you’re setting yourself up to be on all kinds of hit lists. Now, I wouldn’t be so irked by her comment because, as she pointed out, calling someone “chocolate” is widely perceived as a term of endearment in black America. It’s not necessarily something that a teacher should be calling a student, but it’s not uber offensive, depending on the context and intent behind it. (Except for the fact that she said that he was unwanted, of course, making her excuse null and void.)

Rainer has a track record of bashing Haitian students at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach, which makes her most recent string of remarks the nail in her professional coffin. Prior to this, the 22-year veteran has been reprimanded for telling one kid “I wish they would put you in a boat and send you back [to] where you came from” and ordering another to stand in the corner near a garbage can because “that’s where he belongs.” No, dear. The kid belongs in the classroom. The degree and the certifications are what need to be lining the circular file.  

Parents send their children to school to be enlightened, not abused. A teacher is responsible for the education of their charges, yes, but it goes beyond just doling out facts and handing out pop quizzes. They’re supposed to be spending the 5, 6, sometimes 7 or 8 hours a day they have with these children building them up, encouraging them, motivating them to be their best, not beating them down with the brass knuckles of their bigotry. Rainer’s hangup is hurtful to the students she’s belittled and scarring to the ones on the sidelines, since she wanted to be all public with her put-downs. It’s part of a deeper-rooted issue she—and some other African-Americans—have with Haitians and other “foreigners” from black bloodlines.

There’s been longstanding discrimination against the Haitian community, even within the Black diaspora. Some of us, as a people, seem to have this belief that some countries, some experiences are more valuable than others. And unfortunately, Haitians get caught in the chokehold of that stupid inter-racial discrimination.

But that’s her issue. My concern is with the kids. The section of Florida that’s the backdrop for this whole debacle is teeming with Haitians and people from other parts of the Caribbean and students who stutter and tall, awkward students and obese students and I’m sure some gay and lesbian students, too. And if the educators there or anywhere else don’t have a genuine love for them, no matter what their individual idiosyncrasies are, they don’t have any business making a career out of working with them.

Teachers should teach because they love kids—all kids—not because they need a paycheck. And for that reason, if these allegations are in fact true, Rainer needs to hang it up and move herself to a nice Haitan-free, kid-less new career. She doesn’t need to be suspended. She needs to be fired. Three strikes is more than enough for her to get it together. We shouldn’t need a fourth to put her out.

Is a 10-day suspension enough punishment for Rainer’s remarks?


Image via Candie_N (Will organize photostream eventually)/Flickr