Teacher faces possible suspension over 'chocolate' comment

Superintendent recommends suspension for Rainer

By Christina Vazquez - Reporter

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. - During Tuesday morning's Broward School Board meeting Leslie Rainer appeared relaxed. She sent a few text messages and calmly listened to the proceedings. 

READ: Leslie Rainer's last 4 performance evaluations

This afternoon the Blanche Ely High School teacher will learn whether she will be suspended for three days with out pay following comments she made in a classroom. 

Superintendent Robert Runcie made the recommendation following a May incident where he wrote that Rainer "engaged in inappropriate conduct by pointing a pointer in a Haitian student's face in a threatening manner and making the statement, "look little chocolate boy". Rainer also told the students, P.S. that he was "chocolate that nobody wanted". 

Over the weekend Rainer told Local 10's Sasha Andrade that this is all a misunderstanding, that she was referring to actual chocolate candies on her desk. 

Runcie also stated in his petition that Rainer "has had a history of inappropriate conduct towards her part-Haitian, minority descent students. Respondent made a statement to a student that, "I wish they would put you in a boat and send you back where you came from." 

Rainer strongly denied the charges when Local 10's Christina Vazquez asked her about them during lunch recess of Tuesday's meeting. 

She said she brought with her sworn statements of support from her Haitian students. 

She also denied this is the third time she's been in trouble with the District as is stated in the petition. 

Jean Robert Lafortune would like to see Rainer fired. He is the President of the Haitian American Grassroots Coalition and believes a simple suspension may send a dangerous message to our community that it is okay to make discriminatory comments about Haitians. 

He told Local 10 there is a rift between African-Americans and Haitian-Americans and believes Rainer's comments are an example of that. 

He says 15 years ago his own daughter came home in tears one day after an African-American teacher made a derogatory comment about her Haitian heritage. He believes the Board will be tacitly allowing a culture of disrespect and discrimination if it doesn't take a stronger stance against Rainer. 

Superintendent Runcie told Local 10's Christina Vazquez he's following procedure and doing what he can within the restraints of collective bargaining agreements. 

In his petition Runcie used stern language regarding Rainer. Calling her actions and conduct immoral, incompetent and rising to a degree that could bring public disgrace to the District. 

He even said Rainer has failed to show she can communicate well with her students,  "to such an extent that pupils are deprived of minimum educational experience." 

County records show Rainer was disciplined back in December of 2008 and April of 2011. 

One incident involves another teacher who accused Rainer of tossing "holy water" on her because she was an atheist. Rainer's attorney said that was just a joke. 

Local 10 wanted to know what criteria the Board used to determine when to dismiss a teacher. How many disciplinary actions need to happen before they decide to recommend termination proceedings? 

The responses were sent by spokeswoman Marsy Smith: 

Christina Vazquez: How many times does a teacher need to get in trouble before he/she can be fired? 

Broward County Public Schools: There is no set number of times. It depends on the severity of the incident(s), number of incidents, extenuating circumstances, previous discipline for similar incidents, etc.  Many factors are considered.  The BTU/SBBC contract- Article 18 refers to progressive discipline as well as Policy 4.9. ...it can be one incident and it could result in termination.  There is no set number.

Christina Vazquez: What is the criteria the Board uses to determine when it can dismiss/fire a teacher? 

Broward County Public Schools: We review with our attorneys and determine if the proper documentation was done, does the offense rise to the level of a form of discipline that we can legally defend based on the individual's work performance, other documented incidents, etc.   Every case is different based on the circu

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