A rally at the Jersey City Board of Education this morning called for the firing of Dickinson High School teacher Howard Zlotkin for a profane rant during a Zoom lesson last month where he called George Floyd “a f***ing criminal.”
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
Zlotkin, also an adjunct professor at the STEM division of the Hudson County Community College, has been suspended from both positions with pay after an NBC New York report brought his comments to light.
“We’re standing in solidarity with the community at large and with the young lady who was verbally abused in a school environment,” activist and Ward F council candidate Frank “Educational” Gilmore said.
He was joined by 17-year-old Timmia Williams, a student of Zlotkin’s who took offense to his remarks and was still visibly upset over the incident during the protest.
Superintendent of Schools Franklin Walker said in a letter on Wednesday that while Zlotkin is currently on administrative leave, he cannot be disciplined further without due process as the result of tenure rights in New Jersey.
While Gilmore said he understands that predicament, Zlotkin could still do the right thing and step down on his own accord.
“While we do respect due process, and we’re going to let the process play out, we do want the individuals viewing this incident to know we have eyes too, and we know what our eyes told us,” he added.
“We don’t even need the case review if he takes the initiative to just step down and to just resign.”
He also commended Williams, calling her “extremely courageous,” for speaking to NBC after sending them videos from Zlotkin’s Zoom lesson, which was supposed to focus on climate change.
“It’s very emotional. It wasn’t at first, but you know as Timmia started crying, just because of the situation, I’m angry, I’m so upset,” stated Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement Executive Director Pam Johnson.
“She is upset. We are upset. It makes no sense what happened in that classroom, and it will not be tolerated … It was disrespectful, it was racist, it was ignorant, and he should step down!”
She continued that school should be a safe space and that was not the case for Zlotkin’s students, who endured at least one other rant from their science teacher.
“We want to remind our young people that without them, we don’t know how to face tomorrow: The community stands with you,” said Kason Little, an organizer with the Elizabeth chapter of Black Lives Matter.
“New Jersey tenure laws are set up to really allow them due process and, you know, protect them ‘oh we want to hear your side of the story.’ What about her? Her side is not enough for you? The trauma you have inflicted upon her is not enough for you?”
During the rally, it was also noted that even if Zlotkin is fired, he will still be entitled to his pension.
Zlotkin was first hired by the Jersey City Board of Education in 2001 and earned a salary of about $110,880 last year, according to public records.