Hair-cutting teacher resigns; school district pressured to make real changes

Concerned students, parents and community members speak about the Cibola incident at the Board of Education District Equity and Inclusion Committee meeting on November 28, 2018 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Photo by Antonia Gonzales | National Native News)

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye

Racially hostile environment must end, says ACLU

This story has been corrected since its first publication.

The New-Mexico teacher who cut a Native student’s hair and called the Navajo student a “bloody Indian” no longer works for the school district as of Nov. 30.

On Tuesday, KUNM confirmed with the teacher, Mary Eastin, that she resigned from the school district.

Albuquerque Public Schools released a statement on Monday evening saying they “severed” their relationship with Eastin.

“The employment relationship between APS and the teacher involved in the incident at Cibola High School was severed on 11-30-2018. Accordingly, she will no longer perform any work for APS. No additional information will be shared because the personnel matters are confidential.”

The decision comes the week after students, Johnson and her parents, concerned parents and community members attended the school district’s equity and inclusion meeting, and spoke of the incident.

Parents of both high school students were informed about the decision by Superintendent Raquel Reedy.

The mother of McKenzie Johnson told the Albuquerque Journal that this was a “short-term win.”

On Halloween at Cibola High School, the 17-year-old was in her AP Literature class where the teacher was role playing the “Voodoo Queen” Marie Laveau. The teacher gave students treats for answering questions; marshmallows given for correct answers and dog food given for incorrect answers. The high-school teacher cut a student’s braid with scissors without her consent. A little later in class, the teacher asked Johnson, “Okay, what are you supposed to be? A bloody Indian?” The Navajo student dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood with a red scratch on her cheek.

READ MORE:Halloween goes awry; Dog food, taunts, and assaults on a student’s hair

Johnson’s parents are still focused on making systematic changes pertaining to cultural sensitivity and cultural awareness trainings and policies within the school district.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye agreed and wants “immediate and mandatory” training to prevent more incidents.

ACLU of New Mexico sent a document of policy changes to the superintendent last week demanding the district take further actions to prevent students of color from being subject to a racially-hostile environment.

“Schools should be places where all students feel safe and welcomed, not subject to abuse by teachers entrusted with their education and wellbeing,” said Leon Howard, ACLU of New Mexico legal director. “APS has an obligation to ensure students are not forced to endure humiliating and harmful experiences like these.”

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter:@jourdanbb.

Comments (8)
No. 1-5

Steps should be taken to insure that Mary Eastin NEVER gets hired as a teacher again. And the student should sue her into the poor house.


...What is the definition of assault? And, what is Law Enforcement's duty concerning Order?


How is it that a teacher pulls the same stunt in California on Dec 7th and gets arrested, jailed and pending a lawsuit, and the ACLU recommends sensitivity training, a slap on the wrist in your case. Sue them! Sue them so they know we are Americans with the same rights!


Did this teacher think she was at the Carlisle School? She should be sued and never teach again!!

Dale Masters
Dale Masters

Tell you what. I might be white, but NOBODY insults or harms a Native when I'm around! I may be on permanent disability, but I can still kick some ***...& this woman would be well worth the pain it would cause me. In fact, I think the amount of satisfaction it would give me would override the pain. She should be forced to live somewhere that's dangerous for white people like her. I'd follow, & inform the residents of her new neighborhood about her racism. Let's see how SHE handles it!