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Teacher goes on racist rant after not realizing Zoom was on, mother of Black child says

The family has filed a legal claim and the California school district confirmed on Thursday the teacher has resigned.
/ Source: NBC News

A Black family has filed a legal claim against a California school district alleging racist remarks were caught on camera after a teacher was seemingly unaware she was still on a Zoom call, and the district confirmed on Thursday the teacher has resigned.

Katura Stokes’ son, a 6th grade student at Desert Willow Fine Arts, Science and Technology Magnet Academy in Palmdale — about 50 miles north of downtown Los Angeles — was having difficulty accessing the school's online platform for remote learning, according to the claim, a precursor to a lawsuit in California.

Stokes set up a meeting with her son's science teacher, Kimberly Newman, to try and address his struggles with online learning, the claim says.

On Jan. 20, following the parent-teacher meeting on Zoom, Newman — who is white — did not end the meeting for all attendees and instead left her microphone and camera turned on, according to the claim.

It's then that Newman seemingly made racist remarks, unaware that she could still be heard on Zoom, and Stokes began recording the call on video.

“Your son has learned to lie to everybody and make excuses,” Newman apparently says on the recording. “Because you’ve taught him to make excuses that nothing is his fault. This is what Black people do. This is what Black people do. White people do it too, but Black people do it way more.”

Excerpts of the video were released by Stokes' attorneys and have been viewed by NBC News. It is unclear what happened prior to the video being recorded.

Newman seemingly goes on to claim in the recording that she and several other teachers had made failed attempts to reach Stokes throughout the school year to discuss her son’s progress, saying this was “the first time I reached that woman the whole year.”

“These parents, that’s what kinds of pieces of s--- they are,” said Newman. “Black. He’s Black. They’re a Black family.”

The claim says that during the rant, Stokes called the school principal who immediately called Newman and told her her video was still on. Newman denied the remarks she made, still on video, while Stokes continued the recording.

Dave Garcia, a spokesperson for the Palmdale School District, told NBC News on Thursday the district is adamantly opposed to any kind of racial bias and that Newman was no longer employed by the district.

“Within hours, the teacher was on administrative leave and within days she resigned. We will not stomach that kind of behavior,” Garcia said. “This is not the vocabulary that Palmdale proposes teachers use.”

Newman could not be reached for comment.

John C. Taylor, Stokes’ attorney, called the comments on the video "horrible" and "truly heartbreaking for a mother to hear and for her young son to hear.”

“All children are entitled to receive an educational experience free of discrimination and this video has demonstrated what minority students often face behind the scenes today,” Taylor said.

Stokes' claim for personal injuries contends emotional distress, defamation and violations of the Civil Rights Act against Palmdale School District. Garcia did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the legal claim.

Last month, another Zoom recording captured two Georgetown University Law School Professors making racist remarks. One professor can be heard saying, “I hate to say this. I end up having this angst every semester that a lot of my lower ones are Blacks, happens almost every semester." Both professors are no longer with the school.

This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.

Samantha Kubota contributed.