Teachers cut high school students’ hair in separate incidents: one fired, one arrested

Posted at 12:15 PM, Dec 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-07 13:15:12-05

(RNN) - Teachers in recent incidents have taken out scissors and cut students’ hair. One teacher, in California, was arrested and the other teacher, in New Mexico, was fired after an investigation.

A teacher in Visalia, CA, was arrested Wednesday after video surfaced of her chasing students around with scissors.

Margaret Gieszinger, 52, was jailed on a $100,000 bond after a video with her forcibly cutting a student’s hair while singing the “Star-Spangled Banner," KFSN reported.

Students described the behavior as a breakdown and said the teacher came into the University Preparatory High School classroom at first period, declaring that it was “haircut day.” She cut one boy’s hair, sang the national anthem loudly and threw the hair behind her.

When Gieszinger tried to cut another student’s hair, the students said they evacuated the classroom.

The Tulare County Office of Education said Gieszinger wouldn’t be returning to the campus, and counselors have been made available for the students, KSEE reported. The school district is reviewing the teacher’s employment.

After a Halloween incident described as racial, a teacher in Albuquerque, NM, was fired after she cut a Native American girl’s hair.

The Albuquerque School District apologized for the actions of Cibola High School language arts teacher Mary Jane Eastin, according to KRQE. The district announced her firing Dec. 3.

Eastin cut about three inches of hair from a Native American girl who had her hair in braids and called another one a racial epithet. She also allegedly coerced students into eating dog food as part of a quiz reward and punishment system, according to a ACLU account.

The teacher, who was placed on leave after the incident, was allegedly dressed in and acting in the character of Marie Laveau, a New Orleans voodoo queen.

Navajo President Russell Begaye condemned the teacher’s “cultural assault."

“Our Native youths should not have to endure this kind of behavior, especially in the classroom. We will hold the teacher, the school and the district accountable for these actions, and we demand recourse,” he said in a November news release.

In a Nov. 28 letter to Albuquerque Public Schools, the ACLU of New Mexico criticized the school district’s response to the teacher’s “battery” of students, saying the school hasn’t done enough to reassure the family and the students affected.

“Anyone with even an iota of cultural awareness knows that in Native American cultures hair is sacred - particularly for women. Some Native American tribes hold hair cutting ceremonies and some only cut hair to honor the loss of loved ones. Beyond that, the cruel implications of Ms. Eastin’s actions harken back to the era of Native American boarding schools, when the cutting of Native students’ hair was a form of punishment inflicted by schoolmasters in a racist attempt to strip children of their heritage and culture,” the organization said.

The ACLU also said Native American students at the school have been threatened by other students angry over the teacher being placed on leave and the students involved have been traumatized by the incident.

After a law enforcement investigation, the 2nd Judicial District Attorney office said they haven’t made a final decision yet on whether Eastin will face criminal charges, they told KRQE, but they also said the behavior "based on preliminary information ... does not appear to meet the necessary elements for criminal prosecution. We will reach out to the relevant agency to request additional information before making a final decision.”

At a school board meeting on Wednesday, most of the parents condemned the teacher, though two of the parents expressed support for Eastin.

“I am sorry to the girls who were offended by Ms. Eastin, but in my heart, and everyone knows Ms. Eastin knows that she never meant that to be racist, she was acting out a historical character on Halloween,” a parent said, according to KRQE.

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