Who is Nicole Burkett?
Nicole Burkett is a California high school teacher who sparked outrage by using a ‘slant eyes’ gesture while explaining racial stereotypes against Asians during an online class. She was placed under investigation after a video of her making the offensive gesture went viral on TikTok.
‘If your eyes go up, you’re Chinese. If they go down, they’re Japanese. If they’re just straight, you don’t know,’ Burkett told students on Zoom last Thursday as she pulled her eyes up and down at the corners.
Nicole Burkett Teacher
Burkett is a Spanish teacher and student adviser at Grant Union High School in Sacramento. She joined the district in 2017. Her bio on the school’s website lists her as the adviser of the Lao Xang Noy and KPOP (Korean pop music) clubs. ‘I love teaching and supporting all students at Grant,’ the bio reads.
Nicole Burkett: Grant Union High School
Burkett was said to be trying to explain a racist school-yard taunt called ‘Chinese, Japanese, Dirty Knees’, which she said was prevalent in the 80s. As the video spread online some students came out to defend Burkett, claiming that the gesture was taken out of context, ABC10 reported.
The outlet said Burkett had posted about receiving death threats on her personal Instagram page.
School officials quickly condemned Burkett’s actions and said an internal investigation is underway.
Nicole Burkett Video
‘The video is shocking and disappointing and does not represent the values held by Twin Rivers and the community,’ Grant Union Principal Darris Hinson said in a statement.
Several parents spoke out against Burkett, including Maria Sepulveda, who has three children in the Twin Rivers Unified School District (TRUSD). She accused Burkett of reinforcing ‘divisive behavior and attitudes.’
‘It’s really harmful to the students right now. It’s not helpful to the community at all,’ Sepulveda told KCBS Radio.
Nicole Burkett Petition
A Change.org petition demanding an apology and 200 hours of community service for Burkett has garnered nearly 6,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning.
The petition, led by the Sacramento Asian/ Pacific Islander (API) Regional Network, also called for TRUSD to implement an ethnic studies curriculum and require all educators to undergo racial equity training.
WHEN WILL TEACHERS STOP BEING RACIST. This is Nicole Burkett who teaches Spanish at Grant Union High School in Sacramento. Feel free to use this link to email the school: https://t.co/bj8cnKwDIb pic.twitter.com/SCk5Erqj51
— v (@sexualsoybean) February 26, 2021
It is unclear whether Burkett was placed on leave pending the internal investigation.
State Sen Dr. Richard Pan, who chairs the API Legislative Caucus, also blasted Burkett.