Upstate New York teachers furloughed after offensive texts

ROCHESTER, NY (AP) — Several Rochester public school teachers have been furloughed after exchanging text messages making “racist and demeaning” references to students, officials said Friday.

The Democrat and the Chronicle reported that teachers were working on Enrico Fermi School 17, which has a large percentage of black and Hispanic students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

“I am horrified by the racist and degrading references and language used to describe children… our children! Staff members have been furloughed and the district will use all forms of discipline available up to and including termination,” Rochester City School District Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small said in a prepared statement.

The students discovered a series of texts, including one containing an obscenity that wanted one girl to beat another. Another obscene text suggested a robocall that insulted children and their parents, according to the newspaper.

The discovery comes weeks after Rochester school officials said they were investigating allegations that a white teacher told his seventh grade class of mostly black students to pick cottonseed and put on handcuffs during slavery lessons.

Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski said he did not know how many teachers were charged in this latest episode.

“I want to make it clear that we strongly believe that everyone, and especially our students, has the right to be treated with dignity and respect,” he said. “We are also committed to fairness and due process and the investigation is still ongoing.”