Teacher Accused of Mailing Afro Wig, White Face Paint to Mixed-Race 2nd-Grader

Warren Township Board of Education
Warren Township Board of Education

A New Jersey family has filed a racial harassment complaint against a school district after the parents said their son’s teacher sent him an unsolicited package that included an afro wig and white face paint in an “act of intimidation.”

According to the July 6 complaint, Denise and Kevin Anderson say the package was sent to their seven-year-old son—only referred to as “J.A.”—by Amazon on July 9, 2021, but there was no sender information. During the 2021-22 school year, administrators of Woodland School in Warren had access to students’ addresses for remote learning, the complaint says. Denise determined that the package was ordered by her son’s second-grade teacher, Christine Rzasa, after speaking with Amazon’s customer service, the suit says.

The complaint says J.A.’s “appearance easily identifies him as a member of the mixed-race community.” His mother is Afro-Latina, and his father is white.

Following the delivery, the Andersons contacted Woodland School Principal Jeff Heaney, the Warren Township School District, and the district board. But the family claimed in their lawsuit that nothing was done regarding the alleged violation of the state’s harassment, intimidation, and bullying laws. Instead, according to the complaint, J.A. was retaliated against in a “hostile education environment.”

“As a result, [J.A.] was so fearful, humiliated and intimidated that he suffered emotional and mental damages for which he had to receive therapy, change of schools and suffer other damages,” the complaint says. “Rzasa’s conduct can be described as nothing short of outrageous.”

The complaint also says the Warren Township Police Department declined to conduct an investigation, and Amazon did not respond to a subpoena request. Police did not immediately return The Daily Beast’s request for comment Tuesday.

In a response to The Daily Beast, Anderson family attorney Kelly Castor declined to discuss the “highly sensitive and difficult” case.

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The teacher, principal, school, district, and district board are all “being sued individually and in their official capacities,” according to the complaint, adding that school officials’ failure to conduct an investigation was negligent.

The family is seeking monetary compensation and sensitivity training for Woodland teachers.

Rzasa did not respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment, but the elementary teacher has been instructing at Woodland School since 2001, according to her LinkedIn page. In 2006, she won the Governor’s Teacher of the Year award.

The Warren Township School District said it “rejects hate and racism in all forms.”

“The Board of Education and the individual employees deny the allegations in the Complaint and intend to vigorously defend the case,” communications coordinator Shannon Regan told The Daily Beast in a statement. “At all relevant times, the Board of Education’s primary concern is the education and well-being of its students.”

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