Former teacher responds to racial outrage at Valley school

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AHWATUKEE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A former Valley teacher said outrage over a racial slur spelled out on the lettered shirts of six white students at Desert Vista High School is nothing new.

On Friday, the senior class at Desert Vista was taking a yearbook photo with students wearing lettered shirts that spelled out the words “best you’ve ever seen class of 2016.”  Six white female students broke off from the group and posed for a smiley picture with a racial slur spelled out on their lettered shirts.

“I told Desert Vista High School pretty much from the onset of my employment there were issues with race there,” said Dr. Cicely Cobb, who left her job as an English teacher at Desert Vista in 2014.

Dr. Cobb was teaching English in 2013-2014 when she said she witnessed racial discrimination and bullying against minority students - and was a victim herself on many occasions. 

“That is a hostile learning environment for these students,” she said.

Dr. Cobb left Desert Vista and filed a federal racial discrimination lawsuit that's still pending.  She said the administration constantly dismissed her complaints of racist student behavior.

She feels the picture that surfaced yesterday vindicates her feelings but wishes it could have been avoided in the first place.

“Many of the students who were so happy to see me gone now are the ones saying ‘Dr. Cobb talked about this on a daily basis, the racial issues on this campus, and we never paid attention to her.  She was right,”’ said Dr. Cobb, citing social media posts she’s read in the 24 hours since the racially charged picture surfaced.

In this instance, Desert Vista and the Tempe Union School District have come out strong against the behavior of the six students in the picture.

“Outrage, absolute outrage,” said Jill Hanks, Tempe Union spokesperson, responding to a question on the district’s official reaction.  “We will be addressing the obvious need for sensitivity training...  there will be discipline, this will not be tolerated.”

From Dr. Cobb’s perspective, it will take a lot to fix the larger problem.

“This is something, from my perception, that comes from home.  This is a word that these children, from my viewpoint, feel comfortable using amongst their peers and probably in the residence,” said Dr. Cobb.

We have extended interview invitations to several of the girls and/or their parents.  So far one parent declined and others have not responded. 

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