The suburban New Orleans public school psychologist whose allegedly racist online comments triggered to a discrimination complaint with the federal government has resigned, the school system said.
Mark Traina, 55, of Slidell, La., worked with students in the Jefferson Parish Public Schools' "alternative schools," where elementary and middle-school pupils "with difficulties in learning and, in some cases, in adapting to the rules of school or community" are sent, according to the school district.
He was the subject of a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a liberal-leaning civil rights advocacy group, which cited comments on Twitter like this:
- "Angry young black males with no respect for life destroying the U.S."
- "Serpas should be warning people to stay the hell out of New Orleans! These black dudes will kill you!" (The reference is to Ronal Serpas, the New Orleans police superintendent.)
- "2 New Orleans policemen shot, 1 suspect dead, another injured. UPDATE|NOLA Quick Someone call David Duke before the NAACP gets here."
Msnbc.com highlighted the case Tuesday, reporting that Traina stood behind his comments, which he said he'd made out of frustration with crime in general. Late Tuesday, Beth Branley, a spokeswoman for the school district, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that Traina had resigned, effective immediately.
School board members had urged acting Superintendent James Meza to take quick action, NBC station WDSU of New Orleans reported. Late Tuesday, the board members said Traina would have been fired had he not resigned.
Investigators for the Civil Rights Division were already separately investigating allegations of discrimination against African-Americans and students with disabilities in Jefferson Parish. Traina's online comments could still be part of that investigation, the Times-Picayune reported.
Traina, who in his Times-Picayune user profile describes himself as a "civil rights activist," called the complaint "unfair" Tuesday in an interview with WDSU.
"Whenever someone speaks out, the liberal media just wants to demonize you," he said.
Traina expanded on those remarks in a long comment posted to the Times-Picayune website last week:
The Southern Poverty Center knows that these allegations are ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE! This is just another way to harass the Jefferson Parish Public School System. One only needs to read the Times Picayune to see who the real trouble makers are. Sadly, it is disproportionately young black males. Everyone knows that our jails throughout the United States are disproportionately filled with black people. Why would the rate be any different in an educational environment?
(Earlier versions of this article included a link to Traina's profile and comments on the Times-Picayune site. The link redirected to an error page late Wednesday.)
Traina said he isn't a racist, telling WDSU that he made the online comments "out of frustration."
"There's too much killing going on," he said. "There's just too much crime in the country, and it's not all black on black.
"It's got to be put down. It's got to stop," he added. "People are just sick and tired of the crime."
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