By Carolyn Tisdale
The historic New York City news story about the so-called Central Park Five clearly describes a case of deep-seated racism and bigotry within our nation’s criminal justice system.
In the late 1980s, five black and latino young men were falsely charged and later convicted of rape. All five men maintained their innocence all the way up until 2002 when the real rapist came forward to admit he was the perpetrator of the crimes the young men were wrongly thrown into prison for.
One would think a high school teacher that educates her students about this historically significant incident is just doing her job. However, officials at New York City’s High School for Arts seemed to disagree. They accused Jeena Lee-Walker (pictured), a teacher at the School for Arts of inciting black students to riot for teaching the lesson.
Lee-Walker, 37, talked about her ordeal of injustice with the New York Daily News. “I was stunned,” she said. Lee-Walker went on to say, “I was kind of like, the facts are the facts. This is what happened. These boys went to jail and lost 14, 18 years of their lives. How can you say that in a more balanced way?”
She also said that her experience with the students while teaching the lessons on the Central Park Five was very rewarding. The students were described as “engaging” and genuinely interested in learning about a part of history that those in the power structure would love for them to forget.
“They were really moved by the documentary and rightly so. They really identified with the teenagers,” Lee-Walker continued.
However, officials at the High School for Arts persisted in their disciplinary action against Lee-Walker. They continually told her to stop teaching the lesson during class and she refused. She also took action against them for violating her rights. They retaliated with a series of bad performance reviews and subsequently terminating her.
Lee-Walker did not give up her fight, however. She filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Federal Court, which accused the school of wrongful termination among other things associated with civil rights violations. The case is currently ongoing.
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