An unidentified student recorded a Southern California teacher dancing in an imitation Native American headdress and she placed her on leave.

In the viral video, which was posted Wednesday, the teacher, who works at Riverside Unified School District, dons a feathered headdress and chants “SOH-CAH-TOA,” an acronym to teach a trigonometry principle, while she jumps around the room, pretending to hold tomahawks. 

District spokesperson Diana Meza told the Riverside-Press Enterprise that the woman was teaching a trigonometry class at John W. North High School. For privacy and personnel reasons, her name has not been released.

There are 12 sovereign Native American tribes in Riverside County, according to the county’s district attorney. According to 2020 census data, the American Indian population increased nearly 85% during the previous decade. 

A statement was issued by the school district in response to Thursday’s video. According to the school district, the teacher is now on leave as they conduct an investigation.

The recording of one of our teachers is widely distributed on social media. These actions are unacceptable and offensive and a denigration of vast, expansive Native American culture and practices. “Her actions don’t represent the values in our district,” said the release. 

California was the first state in America to have a high school ethnic studies course. The bill was authored by Jose Medina (D-Riverside), Assemblyman. 

Medina, along with other members of the assembly, released a statement Thursday denouncing the actions taken by the teacher. 

“It is damaging and disheartening to see Native American and indigenous culture represented in such a trite and insensitive way,” the statement said, adding “This is not an isolated incident, as such teaching practices have been used across the nation. This behavior must be stopped.

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