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Former teacher alleges history of racism at Desert Vista High School

Desert Vista High School. (Photo: Jill Halverson)
LISTEN: Dr. Cicely Cobb

PHOENIX — A former teacher alleged there is a history of racism at Desert Vista High School, the same school where six girls recently posed for a photo with a racist slur on their shirts.

“There’s been a racial issue with Desert Vista High School since the school opened,” Cicely Cobb told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos on Tuesday.

Cobb, who is currently suing the school in federal court for racial discrimination, said she was glad the photo of the six girls spelling out N-I-*-*-E-R with their shirts is receiving international attention.

“I literally screamed ‘Thank you, Jesus’ in my house for about 10 minutes,” she said of seeing the story for the first time.

Cobb said the photo made her feel “vindicated” and that it was finally shining a light on problems that had been perpetuated for years. It made her feel like she was no longer the “crazy, angry, black woman” she had been painted as for two years.

She said at least one of the girls in the photo has a history of using racial slurs online.

“I don’t believe she is innocent by any means,” she said.

Cobb taught English at the school. She said all students read “To Kill A Mockingbird,” a novel by Harper Lee that contains the n-word. She said students are taught about the word and its meaning in American history.

Cobb left the school in 2014 after several alleged incidents. In one, she claimed a student took a photo of her walking along a street and insinuated she was a prostitute on social media.

“Regardless of my education, I’m still a black whore who works her corner,” she said of how the photo made her feel.

A district official said Cobb’s contract was not renewed for a number of issues, including “insubordination, unprofessional conduction and violations of board policies.”

Cobbs said she witnessed a pattern of white students instigating black students while at the school.

Cobb also claimed that she went to former principal Dr. Anna Battle and Tempe Union High School District’s Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Baca to address her problems, but neither listened to her.

The school has said the girls would be punished, but disciplinary actions are not disclosed per district policy. However, Jill Hanks, executive director of community relations for the Tempe Union High School District, said they would likely be required to take sensitivity training.

“I can tell you that there’s an obvious need for sensitivity training here and we will definitely be addressing that,” she said.

Calls to Battle were not immediately returned.

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