A Dickinson High School student in Jersey City who made now former teacher Howard Zlotkin’s racist tirades public last month has filed a federal lawsuit against him, her school, and the Jersey City Board of Education, alleges that the BOE ignored requests for help.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“It is outrageous that, even after T.W. repeatedly reached out to school officials about
Zlotkin’s mistreatment, no one even bothered to get back to her until it was too late and
she had been subjected to yet another class full of racist vitriol,” said T.W.’s attorney, Ali
“Even more outrageous is that the school knew full well that Zlotkin was utterly
unfit for the classroom and yet did nothing to protect students from him.”
The 17-year-old plaintiff, identified by her initials T.W., reiterates what Zlotkin said during a April 28th class conducted via Zoom in the 20-page complaint.
“I hear people whining and crying about Black Lives Matter, but George Floyd was a f***ing criminal and he got arrested and he got killed because he wouldn’t comply and the bottom line is we make him a f***ing hero,” Zlotkin said in video first published by NBC New York.
The student interviewed by the TV station was Timmia Williams, who later appeared with activists at a rally at BOE headquarters calling for Zlotkin’s termination.
“Only after the media reported on Zlotkin’s conduct did BOE finally respond. Zlotkin was suspended from his teaching duties late in the day Thursday, April 29, 2021. Defendant BOE told NBC New York that the school had been ‘in the process of taking statements from students today before proceeding with disciplinary actions,” the suit says.
“But no one from Dickinson High had reached out to T.W. to interview her or to Ms. [Margie] Nieves [her mother] to discuss the situation with her.”
The suit continues that Zlotkin, who is no longer employed by the district, assigned her and three other students “to write essays explaining why Black lives should matter.”
When she refused, Zlotkin allegedly told her she was “full of s***” and asked “cause why? You can’t make a case for yourself?” Another student was then allegedly kicked out of class for calling Zlotkin racist.
According to the suit, Zlotkin should never have been teaching this spring since T.W. had sent a video of Zlotkin cursing at the class to the school’s principal, Gekson Casillas – also named as a defendant – back in December 2020.
T.W. asked the principal for help, and Casillas told her he would address the situation. But, she alleges, Zlotkin was back in class the following day, ranting about the student who had
“ratted him out.”
The court filing alleges several other instances of the BOE’s failure to act, such as when she and her mother reached out to multiple school officials after class on April 28th, nobody from the school took any steps to protect the students from Zlotkin.
The next day, he was back in class, verbally abusing the students again, the lawsuit contends.
The suit alleges that the BOE and school officials violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and state anti-discrimination laws in allowing Zlotkin to racially harass his students. T.W. is also suing Zlotkin directly for discriminating against her, along with compensatory and punitive damages for emotional distress.
“With all classes conducted remotely, it would have been easy for any school official to observe Zlotkin’s class at any time. And yet the school failed to even take that simple step,” said T.W.’s other attorney in the matter David Lebowitz.