Open/Close Menu Personal Injury Lawyer NJ

A tenured Jersey City elementary school teacher who was accused of separating failing fourth-grade students into light- and dark-skin color lines and telling students the light-skinned line would pass fourth grade, is back at work this year after the state recently ended her suspension, The Jersey Journal reports.

P.S. 38 teacher Gilda Harris allegedly asked her struggling or failing students to stand up in front of the class on April 3, 2014, and then she asked all of the students in class to stand in one of the two skin color lines on each side of the room.

Harris, who has denied all of the allegations lodged against her, also was accused of previously seating students during the 2013-2014 school year based on grades. According to one student, the “A”, “B,” “C,” and “F” tables respectively represented Princeton UniversityRutgers UniversityNew Jersey City University, and Drew University.

In an October 2 decision about Harris, whose nearly-year-long suspension ended Sept. 8, a state arbitrator found many of the allegations credible against the longtime elementary school teacher, who began teaching at the school in 1999. But he said the issues did not merit termination because Harris did not act “with malicious intent.” The decision was released publicly on October 13.

“I concur with the district’s argument that (Harris)’s conduct was inappropriate and demonstrated exceptionally poor judgement,” said state arbitrator Howard Edelman in his 61-page report, which was recently posted online. “I do not find, however, that (Harris)’s behavior was intentionally cruel and abusive or that she intended to create racial animus. Rather, I am convinced, she wanted students to feel the sting of discrimination so they would know how not to act in potentially racially charged situations.”

“(Harris), an African-American teacher, apparently was attempting to teach her students a lesson concerning race (with the racially divided lines), but should have chosen a more suitable methodology,” he added, noting that Harris had previously had an unblemished disciplinary record, and was a tough teacher who had also contributed positively to the district.

Harris was suspended without pay from the district from November 31, 2014 to September 8, 2015, when she was able to return to work. She will receive some back pay, as a result of the state’s decision, but only for the period of April 28, 2015 to May 29, 2015.

She also received a warning for being absent 118 times in seven school years.

A district spokeswoman and Harris have not yet responded to email inquiries about the resolution.

Despite Harris’ denial of the district’s allegations, Edelman said Harris’ students “testified consistently” that she separated them into two lines on April 3, 2014. The students said Harris told them that the white or light-skinned students would pass fourth grade, while the black or dark-skinned students would not, with one student saying their teacher said “the white people has more better behavior than the black people.”

“To insist that the students fail, contribute to an environment in which they would fail, would be like suicide to me,” Harris told the state. “As the District and the State now has a policy that students’ progress is tied to teacher progress, it serves no benefit to undermine, humiliate, embarrass, or do anything to the students.”

In the teacher’s account of the incident on April 3, Harris was distributing school picture packets, reading off lists of names of kids who ordered pictures and school T-shirts. Then, she asked students to stand as she read from a list that someone had put on her bulletin board, “thinking it was another distribution list.” According to Harris, she later learned from students that the list (which another teacher denied existed) included students with recurrent behavior problems. One student, who was black, repeatedly told her only the black students were standing, and she told him that this wasn’t true.

While Harris also denied the district’s claim about the tables based on “colleges” and grades, the arbitrator found her culpable of this, too.

Harris also denied, but was found culpable, of other district complaints, including that she led students to write negative letters about their art teacher.

Categoryblog, news
Write a comment:


Your email address will not be published.


Disclaimer: This site is provided purely for informational purposes and is in no

way a substitute for legal counsel.