Oakland — Darnisha Wright, a kindergarten teacher at Markham Elementary School, identified herself to this news organization as the teacher in the video.
“My neck and throat hurts, and my head is pounding. I may have went to the hospital if I didn’t have a (more than) 100-page tentative agreement to read, understand and vote on within 24 hours,” Wright said via Facebook Messenger. “The vote won’t wait for me to get better.”
Hinton-Hodge issued a statement Saturday afternoon apologizing to Wright. She said she was “pushed to the ground, briefly disoriented, and tried to get back up,” when she realized she was “inadvertently pushing up against a teacher’s neck.”
“I would never have intentionally touched another person or a sister in that way, and I regret any harm that I might have caused her,” Hinton-Hodge said in the statement. “I am deeply troubled by this and when realizing afterwards who it was, I offer my sincerest apology to Ms. Wright. I acted out of fear and self defense, and would never seek to hurt anyone, least of all a teacher.”
Wright said she told Hinton-Hodge “you’re choking me,” but was unable to enunciate because her airway was obstructed.
Markham teacher Daphne Crane, who shot the video, said the people blocking the door were not trying to provoke Hinton-Hodge, just telling her to “go home” and not attend the meeting. Still, Hinton-Hodge kept trying to push through, she said.
Other videos circulated social media of a man wearing a suit accompanying Hinton-Hodge clashing with protesters, trying to push them out of the way to get into the auditorium. Teacher Audrey Arthur said “he grabbed and pushed through multiple people who were standing in front of him chanting.”
Along with other school board members, Hinton-Hodge couldn’t get past the picketing teachers and supporters into a campus auditorium, where they were scheduled to vote on cutting $21.75 million from Oakland Unified’s 2019-2020 budget to help pay for teachers’ raises. School board member James Harris also had a run-in with protesters, who circled around him and shouted at him before he left.
Hinton-Hodge, in her statement, said demonstrators “engaged in a series of activities that physically threatened us as board members and me in particular,” including chaining the doors of the board room.
While all that was going on, union and district officials announced that a tentative agreement had been reached on the seventh day of the longest Oakland teachers strike since 1996.
The agreement calls for an 11 percent raise over four years and a 3 percent one-time bonus for the Oakland Education Association’s 3,000 members. It also calls for reducing the maximum size of classes by one student and a cap on the caseloads of school counselors, nurses, psychologists and special education teachers.
The union’s 3,000 members will vote Sunday to ratify or reject the agreement. If a majority of them approve the deal, teachers are expected to return to class Monday.
Hinton-Hodge’s full statement:
I care deeply about Oakland children, their families and the teachers that nurture them in our schools. And I value our communities long struggle for more just and fair public school systems. Please accept this statement regarding Friday events.
Yesterday, as the members of the Oakland School Board were preparing for our meeting, a large number of demonstrators engaged in a series of activities that physically threatened us as board members and me in particular. They chained the doors of the board room, trapping some inside and keeping some out. I was directed by school district police to go through a specified door. When I did, the protest became chaotic and dangerous, with some protesters pushing forward, some blocking doors, and some putting hands on me. I was pushed to the ground, briefly disoriented, and tried to get back up. In doing so, I realized I was inadvertently pushing up against a teacher’s neck.
I would never have intentionally touched another person (or a sister) in that way. And I regret any harm that I might have caused her. I am deeply troubled by this and when realizing afterwards who it was, I offer my sincerest apology to Ms. Wright. I acted out of fear and self-defense, and would never seek to hurt anyone, least of all a teacher. In view of the entire incident, I remain deeply concerned about the threat to me and my colleagues as public servants. I am a deep believer and practitioner of nonviolent protest. What happened yesterday was not that. It was terrifying, unacceptable, and has no place in our civil discourse, especially on a day when we should be celebrating an agreement that will end a strike and offer our teachers something closer to what they deserve.
I deeply apologize to Ms. Wright and know her to be a dedicated teacher. I hope she and I can find a way to restore any harm that has been done.
Respectfully, Jumoke Hinton Hodge
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