Is This Comedy Video Racist? NJ Principal Fired After Sharing With Teachers
MONTCLAIR — The principal of a middle school was removed from his position on Wednesday after he played a video deemed offensive during a Zoom staff convocation earlier in the day.
Joseph Putrino, the principal of the Renaissance Middle School, showed video of a Black comedian ranting about how difficult it has been for him to homeschool his children during the pandemic.
Staffers told MontclairLocal.News that the video was of comedian Josh Pray, who does a frantic bit apologizing to educators after realizing how difficult his children have been with him at home.
“Most parents ain’t gonna be big enough to apologize to every educator, every after-school program person that took care of my kids," Pray says. "I’m going to be the first to admit it. It’s been two days and I want to go on record apologizing."
The video was stopped by schools Superintendent Jonathan Ponds after several people in the comments expressed their objections to the video, according to a report on the local news site Baristanet.
It is not clear from written statements by school administrators why people believed the video was racist or offensive. The comedian does not use any racial slurs or make any overt references to race.
In an email to staff, the superintendent apologized for a "completely inappropriate and unacceptable video" that "was inconsistent with our school’s strong values and ideals regarding diversity. Montclair Public Schools, and I, as your superintendent, are committed to providing our staff and students with a school environment free of racism, prejudices and biases. The matter is being handled internally by central administration."
The Montclair NAACP also wanted the Board of Education to take "immediate action" about the "racist and offensive video," president Albert Pelham said in a statement to NorthJersey.com, adding that the principal "has a history of complaints of racial insensitivity."
During an NAACP Education Committee meeting on Thursday, Montclair High School Interim Principal Terry Trigg-Scales, who is Black, said she was also offended by the video, Baristanet reported.
“Dr. Putrino, as president of the Montclair Principals Association, as part of his welcome, showed a video of a Black father ranting, saying disparaging things about his own children," Trigg-Scales was quoted as saying. "He was praising teachers, couldn’t believe teachers put up with all these things. The implied message was teachers getting praised, but it was rather offensive to use in that setting.”
On his Facebook page on Friday, the comedian acknowledged the controversy in Montlcair and said he was working on a statement to release.
Putrino has worked for 18 years in the district and earned a salary of $162,619.