Howard Zlotkin, a white teacher from William L. Dickinson High School in Jersey City, unexpectedly veered off topic during a discussion about climate change last month when he began to single out several Black students during an angry diatribe.
“If you think I’m privileged, then f-ck you, because my daughter thinks I’m privileged, and I don’t speak to her,” the landscape and design teacher was recorded saying during the online class session. Soon afterward, the disgruntled instructor isolated Timmia Williams, telling her, “I hear people whining and crying about Black Lives Matter, but George Floyd was a f-cking criminal.
Floyd died in May 2020 while in the custody of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. On April 20 Chauvin was convicted of Floyd’s murder.
The teacher continued, “And he got arrested, and he got killed because he wouldn’t comply, and the bottom line is we make him a f-cking hero.” Williams told the news outlet that Zlotkin later called on four Black female students and told them he wanted an essay from each of them.
Williams and her mother, Margie Nieves, contacted the school immediately following the incident but to no avail until they reached out to NBC New York. Meanwhile, Zlotkin was back in class and again cursing at students on Thursday, April 29.
He also went off on Williams for refusing to do the assignment, stating, “I don’t think you can make a case. You know what, Timmia? You’re full of sh-t too.” Nieves told the outlet her daughter came to her crying, asking, “Mom, why is it there’s a problem with my skin?”
Mussab Ali, the Jersey City Board of Education president, shared a statement on his Facebook page stating that Zlotkin was suspended amid an ongoing investigation.
“The comments made by this individual are not representative of our district or our city,” Ali said. “In June of last year, our Board of Education passed a resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis in light of the horrific murder of George Floyd.”
Zlotkin is also an adjunct professor at Hudson County Community College, located not far from the high school. In a statement obtained by CBS News, the college said it also suspended Zlotkin with pay, pending an investigation, after becoming aware of his “offensive and derogatory language while teaching a Dickinson High School Zoom.”