Legislators respond to faux classroom Native American ‘dance’ by teacher in Riverside classroom

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO— Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland), chair of the California Native American Select Committee and California Native American Legislative Caucus, joined other lawmakers in voicing concerns about a classroom incident at John W. North High School in the Riverside Unified School District. The incident went viral on Wednesday.

A news account described the incident as a mathematics teacher dancing before her students in a “faux Native American headdress” while chanting “SohCahToa” to help students remember trigonometry ratios.

Ramos is the first California Native American ever elected to the state Legislature. In a statement issued with Assemblymembers Jose Medina (D-Riverside) and Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), Ramos said, “We fully condemn the actions that took place at John W. North High School earlier this week. The teacher’s behavior was highly inappropriate and offensive.” The lawmakers also stated they want to work with the Riverside school district to ensure similar incidents are not repeated.

Ramos said the troubling video underscores the need for greater understanding of Native American culture and history. “I have proposed AB 1554 and ACA 6, which would create the California Indian Education Act to increase student knowledge about the state’s Native American people.” He added that on October 27, the Assembly Select Committee on Native American Affairs and the Assembly Education Committee will conduct a joint informational hearing to learn more about Native student achievement and the state’s social studies curriculum on California Indians.

The Southern California lawmakers noted in their statement that, “Just weeks ago, the state of California made ethnic studies a required course across California high schools. Unfortunately, for students of color, moments such as the one at John W. North High School are the few in which their heritage is represented in the classroom, despite how inaccurate and wrong they are. We need to ensure students learn about themselves in positive, accurate, and appropriate ways.” The new law, AB 101, was introduced by Medina.

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 Assemblymember James Ramos proudly represents the 40th Assembly district which includes Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino. He is the first and only California Native American serving in the state’s legislature.