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SOH CAH TOA mnemonic dance: Riverside Maths teacher suspended for 'mocking' Native Americans

A Maths teacher at the North High School in Riverside in California has been suspended for "mocking" the Native Americans in her dance in the classroom. She was demonstrating a mnemonic tool to remember certain trigonometric definitions. Native Americans staged a protest at the school, charging that the teacher's behaviour is offensive and dangerous. Protests are snowballing.

RIVERSIDE (California), Oct 24: An over-enthusiastic Maths teacher at the North High School in Riverside has been suspended for dancing and hollering in the class in a war-hooping, tomahawk-chopping style wearing a native headgear, that "mimicked" the sensitive Native Americans.

She was demonstrating a way of remembering the trigonometric definitions of sine, cosine and tangent i.e., sine equals opposite over hypotenuse, cosine equals adjacent over hypotenuse and tangent equals opposite over adjacent with a mnemonic tool called SOH CAH TOA.

A video of the dance was taken by a student and has been shared on various social media platforms, including Instagram and Twitter. The Native American student felt "violence was being committed." It was an offensive depiction of the vast and expansive Native American cultures and practices, it has been alleged.

The recording shows the teacher, Candice Reed, wearing a headgear made out of fake feathers, dancing to the SOH CAH TOA tune.

"A recording of one of our teachers has been widely circulated on social media," read a statement issued by the Riverside Unified School District Administration on Thursday. "These behaviors are completely unacceptable and an offensive depiction of the vast and expansive Native American cultures and practices. Her actions do not represent the values of our district. The teacher has been placed on leave while the District conducts an investigation."

"We are deeply committed to implementing inclusive practices and policies that honor the rich diversity of our district and the greater region. We will be working with our students, families, staff and community to regain your trust," it said.

Native American protesters lined the sidewalk outside the school Thursday. The teacher's behaviour is not just insulting, but dangerous. It was highly inappropriate and offensive, they said.

Chrissie Castro, the chairwoman of the Los Angeles City and County Native American Indian Commission, said the teacher's behaviour is not just insulting, but dangerous, "making us seem that we are primitive peoples."

"We are dehumanized in the classroom, false histories of our people, making us seem that we are primitive peoples.

"It was totally disgusting ... had no place in a school classroom, actually has no place anywhere," said Dee Dee Manzanares Ybarra of the American Indian Movement of Southern California.

However, mnemonics are tools routinely used by students to remember complex facts by the method of association, teachers point out. For example,

"I before E except after C

Or when sounding like A

As in neighbour and weigh"

helps when in doubt while writing in English.

Established in 1965 and named after the founder of Riverside, John W North High School is a Government high school in Riverside. It has a diverse population of students that include Caucasian, Latino, Black and Asian and the second languages spoken are Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Tagalog and Urdu. Average Class size is 30+ students. It is affiliated to International Baccalaureate (IB).

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