A Jefferson Parish school psychologist criticized for posting hostile remarks about African-Americans online has left his job. Mark Traina, who worked in the Jefferson public school system, came under scrutiny when a civil rights organization complained about his inflammatory rhetoric.
His resignation was effective Tuesday, said school system spokeswoman Beth Branley. News of Traina’s bellicose commentary on issues involving the black community initially spread on Monday.
Traina, who described himself on Twitter as white, married, age 55, a Slidell resident and interested in “politics, the economy, reading and expressing my opinion,” issued tweets saying “young black thugs” who commit crimes should be “put down like the dogs they are” and invoking the names of white supremacist David Duke and Alabama segregationist governor George Wallace, among other malevolent posts.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala., called attention to the Twitter messages and other statements from Traina on NOLA.com – in both places using his real name – after it filed a complaint with federal regulators last week about high referral rates of black children to the Jefferson system’s alternative schools for struggling students. The center alleged that black and special education students end up in academic limbo in those programs. Lawyers for the school system have declined to discuss the allegations.
Traina worked with alternative schools and contributed to the process of directing students to those sites. A lawyer for the law center, Eden Heilman, said its case workers have previously met with him about situations with individual students.
Heilman said Traina’s Internet arguments offer support for the center’s contention of racial bias in the system.
Traina told The Times-Picayune on Monday that his comments had no bearing on how the school system functions. He said his arguments presented realistic assessments of issues in society, not racism, and that the law center’s approach is unfair. In his NOLA.com profile, he described himself as a “civil right activist.”
Earlier this year the center lodged another complaint about police officers working at Jefferson Parish school sites arresting black students at disproportionately high rates and for minor infractions not warranting law enforcement intervention. School officials have denied discrimination in that case.
This week the school system is hosting officials from the U.S. Department of Education civil rights office, who have decided to investigate the charges about campus arrests.
Acting Jefferson Superintendent James Meza said Monday that the system would investigate Traina’s Internet pronouncements.
Meza said Traina’s resignation on Tuesday moots the parish’s disciplinary investigation but keeps the matter pending for scrutiny as part of the federal civil rights inquiries.
To read the entire story by Mark Waller, go to The Times-Picayune