A Bronx Principal Is Under Fire After She Bans Black History Lessons From Being Taught

Another reason educators must be in tune with the demographic of their students.

A Bronx Principal Is Under Fire After She Bans Black History Lessons From Being Taught
Photo Credit: Photo: NY Daily News

| February 12 2018,

1:25 pm

A Bronx principal is being called racist after prohibiting an English teacher from giving lessons on black history.

According to the NY Daily News, teachers say that Intermediate School 224 Principal Patricia Catania has been creating a hostile work environment since she got the job in December 2016. The city is now investigating. 



“She’s racist,” said English teacher Mercedes Liriano, who’s worked at the school for more than a decade. “She’s trying to stop us from teaching our students about their own culture.”

Ninety-five percent of students at IS 224 are black and Hispanic.  

The American school system has been known to fail black and brown students, especially in lessons of our history. It seems that even during our beloved and sacred Black History Month, Catania is making sure we still are not represented. 

On Wednesday, Catania allegedly pulled English teacher Liriano aside and told her not to give lessons about the famed Harlem Renaissance movement of literature and art in the 1920s, the Daily News reports.

Liriano said she was taken aback by these commands as she teaches the Harlem Renaissance, as well as the writings of Frederick Douglass, to her sixth- and seventh-grade students as part of the officially recommended New York state curriculum standards.

“She said I’m not a social studies teacher so why am I teaching my students about black history?” Liriano said. “Her tone was very harsh, as if I committed a heinous crime.” 

With all the contributions black people have made to literature, why would it be out of place for a literature teacher to tell her students about black writers? Despite Catania's demands, Liriano continued her lesson anyway. 

“She’s attempting to stop the students from learning about their own history, and she’s denying them the right to learn about where they came from,” Liriano told The  Daily News.

Upon Liriano sharing the news with colleagues and students, 75 percent of students decided to wear black in protest the next day. Another 71 students started a petition calling on Catania to allow the lessons in black culture to continue.

Students have made it clear that they desire to learn about their history. One sixth grader, Savannah Villagomez, confronted the principal about her double standards on the day of the protest.

“I asked her why we shouldn’t learn about black history,” Villagomez said. “She said we weren’t learning anything, but she didn’t even look at our projects...I was angry. She doesn’t know our history and she wants to stop it.”

Rev. Al Sharpton has even weighed in on the madness. 

“This is a disgrace and an insult,” Sharpton said. “(IS 224) needs to know we stand with this teacher and we will be there to do whatever we need to do.”

All of this comes after another Bronx middle school teacher, Patricia Cummings, made students lie down and stepped on their backs as a black history lesson. These events have fueled protesters to descend on city hall calling for expanded anti-bias training and the creation of an office for culturally responsive education within the education department. However, city officials have declined to add resources to address the issue. 

A lot can be said about the necessity of educators to understand and be in tune with the demographics of their students. When they aren't, situations like these continue to arise.




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