California teacher was put on paid administrative leave after video shows him punishing a hearing-impaired student

Last Thursday, a two-minute, three-part video appeared for TikTok, showing a Zoom recording of a physiology class at Oxnard College that day taught by Professor Michael Abram, who is identified in the video by name. and by a student. in your class.

CNN has reached out to Abram several times by email and phone, but has received no response.

When the posted video begins, it is unclear if the teacher knows that the student, who is later identified in the video as hearing impaired, needs help with her hearing. CNN does not name the student because she refused to speak to us.

He asks the student, who says she can hear him a bit, why she hasn’t answered.

“Can you hear me a little? Abram asks.” Why didn’t you answer every time I spoke to you?

The student tries to answer, but Abram continues to talk about her.

“I am hard of hearing,” he says in response to Abram.

“Why don’t we talk sometime? Why don’t you email me? We’ll set up a Live Zoom and we’re going to have real communication at some point,” he says. “Maybe you can get your advisor to join us, okay? Do you hear me? Well, wonderful, do that,” he says.

After that interaction, another student in Zoom’s class says the student is hard of hearing and cannot respond immediately.

“She’s not paying attention, she’s not trying,” says Abram.

The other student says, “It’s slower on your end because you need to translate it and then it goes to your hearing aid.”

Abram tells the hearing-impaired student to “have his counselor talk to me because he is too distracted to even understand what’s going on.”

“Yes, I do it because my translator is by my side explaining everything you are saying,” he replies.

Abram suggests that the student’s translator teach her to move on.

“Just have them teach you, the whole class, that makes sense to me,” he says. “I don’t know, I don’t understand,” adding that he saw the hearing-impaired student “laughing” and “laughing” with someone else and not paying attention. She responds that she is in a good mood.

Abram continues to repeatedly ask her to have her “advisor” talk to him, to which she agrees, but says she feels he is “attacking” her.

“I am not attacking you, I am not attacking you,” he says. “I’m significantly disappointed in you. That’s it, that’s it. I’m not attacking you.”

The professor is now on administrative leave, the university said in a statement. “I am saddened and outraged beyond words that any of our students should be or feel disrespected by any of our employees,” Acting President Luiz Sánchez said in a statement posted on Twitter.

The video was intended for administrators to review

Sarah Rand, a student in Abram’s class, took the original video which was later posted on TikTok by someone she described as a family friend.

Rand told CNN she took the video with the intention of sending it to administrators to show the behavior and comments she said she and other students had seen during Abram’s classes this semester.

When asked at a news conference Monday if there were any previous complaints against Abram, administrators said they could not comment because that is part of the investigation.

Abram was hired as a full-time senior lecturer in the fall of 2004 as a biology professor, but has taught anatomy and physiology classes at Oxnard College, according to Art Sandford, vice president for academic affairs and student learning.

On Friday, the Ventura County Community College District, of which Oxnard College is a part, released a statement.

“The Ventura County Community College District opposes any language or behavior that is offensive or harmful to anyone based on gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age or disability,” said Board Chairman Joshua Chancer, in the statement. “Comments on the video do not reflect the District’s values ​​of integrity and honesty in action and word, respect, and the constant pursuit of excellence.”

The National Association of the Deaf said deaf and hard of hearing students vary in what they need in class, including interpreters, captions, and devices to assist them.

“The use of interpreters or captions generally results in additional time for the deaf or hard of hearing student to receive all the information and then be able to respond,” Executive Director Howard A. Rosenblum said in a statement. “Therefore, teachers need to be patient and adapt to this extra time, rather than berating those students.”

Administrators Say Campuses Can Make Learning Accommodations

The investigation could take up to 90 days to complete, Greg Gillespie, chancellor of the Ventura County Community College District, said at a news conference Monday.

“The instructor has the right to due process under the law, so it is his constitutional right as a permanent public employee and, therefore, he will have paid leave until the investigation is complete and we can determine what the findings bring us.” , He said. Laura Lizaola Barroso, vice chancellor for human resources for the Ventura County Community College District.

CNN has reached out to the Oxnard College Academic Senate, which has a voice in student and faculty affairs.

Administrators said they have told students that the district has the ability to make accommodations for whatever type of learning assistance is needed. They said it is important for students to inform the faculty or staff of the educational assistance center of their needs.

The home university for the hearing-impaired student is Moorpark, another of Ventura’s campuses, according to administrators at the briefing. It is not uncommon for a student to take classes on other campuses, especially now, when most classes have been switched online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We know that the student was connected to the EAC (educational assistance center) folks at Moorpark College. However, we are still investigating the student’s status regarding whether or not accommodations were requested for this Oxnard College class,” he said. Gillespie.

Administrators said they are in the process of meeting and communicating with the students involved.

Rand said he was initially concerned that sharing the video with administrators could jeopardize their graduation and grades, but says that without it, they would not know what is happening with a faculty member.

“We hope we’ve created an environment where people feel comfortable introducing themselves so they can be approached,” Gillespie said. “This incident is an example of unacceptable behavior seen on video and we are going to investigate it and take it seriously.”

The administration said it is also proud of the other student who spoke on behalf of the student who is hearing impaired.

Rand said he never thought the video would be received on social media the way it has.

“No matter what this person did, I don’t think his reputation should be buried, like millions of people hate him. That was not my intention,” he said.

“I did this for other people to show that when you see something wrong, don’t be quiet, because this is abuse that is happening and needs to stop,” Rand said. “Don’t be afraid. Speak for the truth.”


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