Who is Hope Antonelli? NY school teacher tells ninth-graders George Floyd died of heart attack, not knee-hold

Who is Hope Antonelli? NY school teacher tells ninth-graders George Floyd died of heart attack, not knee-hold
George Floyd mural memorial at the Scott Food Mart corner store in Houston's Third Ward where Floyd grew up (Getty Images)

A New York high school teacher has received major backlash for claiming in one of her assignments that George Floyd died of a heart attack and drug overdose. This comes after former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted in April of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

This claim by the high school teacher was made as a part of an English assignment that the teacher had handed out to her students in the ninth grade on Friday, May 7. The Saugerties Central School District is reviewing the incident that has raised concerns among students and their parents.


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Who is Hope Antonelli?

Hope Antonelli is the high school teacher who handed out the assignment that asked students to “create a bold topic/thematic sentence.” The assignment noted, "George Floyd did not die because (Derek) Chauvin’s knee was on his neck. He died from a heart attack and drug overdose. However, because Chauvin used excessive force and failed to render aid, he was convicted on all three counts by a jury of his peers. (Arrest was over a counterfeit $20 bill)."

Not just this, but the assignment also mentioned a juror -- Brandon Mitchell -- who denied being involved in the BLM movement or protesting against officers before he was appointed as a jury member in the Derek Chauvin trial. In relation to this, the assignment read, "New evidence has surfaced that he could not have been forthcoming in his statements," and asked students “Should the Derek Chauvin case be retried because of Brandon Mitchell. Why or Why Not?”

Assignment 'chips away at empathy' 

Sakinah Irizarry, whose children are fifth and seventh-graders in the school district, said that the assignment was harmful regardless of race. The assignment used a traumatic incident, and this was harmful, she claimed. She told NBC News, "Even if we were not talking about this case, specifically, it takes the death of a person, I'd say, from a very cold and distant point of view," and added, "I keep coming back to empathy. It is not an empathetic point of view of a person who died, it is blaming a person who's died for their own death. That chips away at empathy."

At this point, it was not clear how many students were handed the assignment, however, one of the students said that they were uncomfortable with the assignment said Superintendent Kirk Rienhart. Reinhart said, "We immediately got in contact with the (student’s) family," and added "Our goal as a school community is to see that all our students feel they are seen, heard, respected and valued.”

As of now, there has been no information from the school district about whether Hope Antonelli will be fired or be disciplined in any manner for handing out such an assignment.

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