Peshe Schiller: 'Racist' NYC teacher allegedly tells 5th graders China created Covid

Several students also accused Schiller, 70, of calling Filipinos "dirty" and pulling down her mask to describe her opposition to the mask mandates


                            Peshe Schiller: 'Racist' NYC teacher allegedly tells 5th graders China created Covid
Parent Coordinator Christina Pun puts up ribbons in front of Yung Wing School P.S. 124 on May 21, 2021, in New York City. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

A 70-year-old substitute teacher in New York City is currently under investigation for allegedly making racist comments at a class of fifth-graders. The teacher, identified as Peshe Schiller, reportedly made disparaging comments about China to a class of Chinese-American kids.

This is just the latest case of teachers being caught for their racist behavior, a problem that is troubling schools nationwide. In late October, California teacher Candice Reed sparked a massive furor over a video of her performing a native American dance. On September 17, one Oregon teacher came to school in blackface, reportedly to protest vaccine mandates. Back in March, Karla Lasiter in Arkansas was put on leave after making a Black five-year-old student unclog a toilet with bare hands.

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Schiller has defended her statements, but parental pressure has forced the school to suspend the teacher and open an investigation. "Why would someone who is a teacher talk to a bunch of 10-year-olds like that?" asked one parent about Schiller's actions. After much complaints, New York's Department of Education has put her on leave while its Office of Equal Opportunity investigates. The incident has also alarmed parents, with one noting that "school is supposed to be a safe place and unfortunately it’s not in this case."

An assistant paints part of a mural by artist Dragon76 that reads "Stop Asian Hate" in Manhattan's Chinatown on March 29, 2021. (Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

'They wanted you to have freedom'

The 70-year-old has reportedly been working as a teacher for 37 years, but this appears to be the first time she landed in trouble. The incident occurred on October 28, at the P.S. 204 in Bensonhurst. Schiller was filling in for another teacher that day, for the Gifted and Talented program. Reportedly, the class had 27 students, out of which 24 were Chinese-American. Schiller insists they were talking about Covid-19 when she allegedly made the racist comments.

When one child told the class the virus was produced by animals, Schiller responded by saying, "Everyone has their own opinion but I heard on the news that it was developed in a laboratory." She doubled down on this, allegedly calling the virus a "bioweapon" and insisted China developed it in a lab, a theory that has not been proven yet. It didn't end there though. Schiller also allegedly told the kids that their parents left China because it is "a Communist country and they don’t have freedom... they wanted you to have freedom."

Furthermore, Schiller allegedly declared that all Chinese people are communists, and added the country has "no freedom of religion," adding, "That’s why you’re here." The class became public knowledge after one student wrote in her notes, "Today we had a racist teacher... She said Covid-19 was made in a lab by China. She also said China had no freedom of religion. Not true obviously."

Parents call incident 'alarming'

School officials found out about the incident after one of them overheard the kids discussing it during lunch. Administrators immediately pulled Schiller from classes and asked a guidance counselor to talk to the kids the next day. The school also issued a statement about the matter, saying, "Hateful and racist behavior has absolutely no place in our schools, and this substitute was immediately suspended and removed from our classrooms... Schools must be safe havens and the school offered counseling and support to these students."

But it appears parents were not happy with the action. "It’s kind of alarming. It taught me a lesson that I need...to start teaching them at this young age to pay attention to these kinds of issues. That even if an adult talks like that you need to speak up," one parent said. They added that it was a "grim reminder" even school kids are not safe from the anti-Asian sentiment gripping the US.

In her defense, Schiller told the media that "Maybe they were upset that I said China is a Communist country, they took offense to that. But it is." Several students also accused Schiller of calling Filipinos "dirty" and pulling down her mask to describe her opposition to the mask mandates. Schiller denied attacking Filipinos and accused the kids of "making things up" because she reprimanded them for using the wrong bathroom.

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