Academy 1 Middle School Jersey City
Academy 1 Middle School Jersey City

It was the last period of the day at Academy 1 Middle School on Bergen Avenue. As the students of Laury Stone’s seventh grade social studies class filtered in, Stone erupted. Two of the boys in homeroom were arguing — continuing a fight that had started in the preceding science class — and Stone wasn’t having any of it.

In a twenty minute verbal torrent, Stone, who is white, berated the children, frequently employing racial stereotypes, yet imploring them to get along with one another and study.

The Jersey City Times reviewed a recording made by a student who took it as the class of special needs students took their seats. It was provided by class parent Alicia Boyken.

A student in the class confirmed that she had made the recording.  The teacher “flips out about everything…it’s a daily thing.”

What follows is a transcript of the recording. Please be advised that readers may find the teacher’s comments offensive.

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“Get that thing off your head, and take a seat right now. Get if off your head. (Door slams.)

What’s the fucking issue that we have here? Yeah, go ‘head, laugh at me. Do I look like I’m being funny to you? Oh, you’re smiling. I’m sick of this baby nonsense. It’s annoying. You come in, and you’re fucked up, and you fuck each other around. Is that not true? You go out into a safe world out there, yes or no? 

As a young black girl, you got a lot of things coming your way, yes or no? Yes, you do?…But you gotta earn it, and you gotta support each other in this community, not beat each other down.

Sit up, you have enough against you. Why are beating each other around here? You need to support each other so you can all do something good with yourselves.

Do you want to be pregnant at 17? Do you want to be in jail? Do you want to be dead? Because you beat each other up mentally, psychologically, and physically. It’s not working. It’s not working for your community. Your neighborhood is filled with violence. Who’s perpetrating the violence? Black on Black. The whites aren’t coming in here shooting y’all down. Are they, are they? How many white people came and shot you today? How many white girls are waiting out there to fight you? How many black girls or Hispanic girls are waiting to fight you? A lot, right?

(Student says something inaudible.) Oh, yeah? I’m sorry, can you sit up?…Who were the people who were messing with you? (Student says something) Right. Is that the right thing to do? Is that going to make you a better young black man? So, we have to stop it, you have to stop it, the insanity needs to end. You are berating and beating each other down as a community. You need to raise each other up. You are all here because you fucked up somewhere in school. You need to fix it. You need to build a community that helps each other do better, or you’re gonna just keep beating each other down. You’re gonna have children, you’re gonna beat them down, maybe not physically but mentally, because you tell them they’re stupid, you’re gonna leave them out on their own for the streets to raise ‘em.

Stop it, it’s not working, it’s not working. We are not dealing with all this banging, getting sides, gathering against each other, we’re not doing that here, it’s not happening. I don’t care if he sat there all quiet, and you’re saying (a student) is doing this. I don’t care. We need to do different, we need to do better. We need it, you need it.

What are your chances in life of doing something if all you’re doing is sitting at home waiting for your welfare check or your Section 8 check to come in? Is that all you want? Because that’s slavery. You want to be a slave, be a slave. I’m against slavery … (looks at a particular student) What are you looking at, what are you looking at? Are you listening to me? Are you anti-slavery, or do you want to be a slave? What do you want to be, do you want to be a slave, yes? I didn’t hear you, you didn’t say ‘I don’t know,” did you? (Child says ‘no.’) Didn’t we fight against that? Didn’t we free the slaves, didn’t we? Didn’t we go against that and free the slaves? Yes. Did we  free the slaves, yes or no? So, be free.

You have every opportunity to get a good solid education, to go out into the world and do anything you want to do, anything.  But you choose violence, you choose ignorance, you choose to just beat each other down. Do you like violence, you like negativity, you like when people call you idiots and put you down, do you like that?…You know you don’t like that, do you, so then why do we do it to each other? If you don’t like it being done to you, we have to stop doing it to others: It’s a very simple rule.

But some of you like drama, you know why? Because it’s the only thing you know in life. You only know violence and drama, and you feel alive. Having a nice normal day, going through a day without drama or ‘psychoness,’ you don’t feel alive. You’re bored, so you cause some drama. I don’t care if you’re bored, there’s nothing to be bored about. You have an education to catch up on, you’re barely reading at the fifth-grade level some of you, barely. You are really like on the third-grade level in math. Are you okay with that? Is that good for you, is that okay for you? So, what are you going to do to make it different? What are we going to do to make it different?

All of a sudden, we’re quiet. We all got lip when there’s drama and negativity going out there, but now that I’m asking you questions, you’re all like, ‘Oh, I don’t know anything, I don’t speak.’ What are you gonna do about it? Get an education and work hard. That’s all you’re here to do, that’s all you need to do. You’re gonna be left in the dust if you don’t get it now.

Do you think that in high school they’re going to hold you by the hand like we do and help you with everything? They’re gonna barely know your name, they’re gonna go fail, fail, fail, fail, fail.  This is your opportunity with teachers in a small group that are working close with you. Do you think you’re getting 100s and A’s because of your work, do you? You’re getting it cause I’m helping you, you’re getting it because the teachers are helping you. They’re not gonna do that in high school, so you have to figure out how to spend your time and energy on work, on learning, on improving your mind, not on drama.

Go home and watch some stupid reality show, there’s your drama. Live vicariously off your drama, but this is not gonna work, this is not gonna work. We’ve spent eight months in this  classroom without any of this nonsense, so the only thing I can say is we got a new kid in class and you’re all siding against each other…Is that what you wanted when you came here … divide the class? So [speaking to the new student] you need to tell these girls, ‘Don’t worry about it, I take care of it.’ You need to stay out of the business. No matter what’s happening if it doesn’t literally involve you, mind your business, got it? Stop taking sides. it? (Student says something inaudible.) That’s why we’re here right now, we’re straightening this out. This is not going to happen every day, this is not going to work. I will literally put you on lockdown where you will not leave the room any moment of the day, you will sit here during your specials, during your lunch, and whenever you’re supposed to be somewhere else, I’ll just lock this room down, that’s what I’m gonna do. Because if I can’t trust you to go into another room and act properly, then you won’t leave my room.

I know, how do you think I feel? You’re ‘Oh, Godding it?’ I have a wonderful time here. I make projects, I have great kids, we do work, I have people who are very eager and excited to do their work and then we have this. So, tell me about a shitty life? This sucks, I’m the one who should be going ugh, ugh, but I’m giving my energy to change it. Do you not want me to work to change it? Cause I’ll sit back and let you all burn. Is that what you want me to do, or do you want me to fight for you to change and make this year better? Which one do you want me to do?  (Asks specific student who says ‘make this year better.’) Okay, so, that’s what I’m gonna do: I’m gonna fight, and sometimes (when) fighting, I gotta get mean, I gotta yell, I gotta get nasty. But when I stop doing this, you’re all done. When I don’t fight for you, I’m done. I will literally turn my back on you and let you go out to the wolves and let them tear you apart.  So, I’m fighting for us to get through the next month and a half so you can get a solid education, so you can go into the eighth grade, and you can get yourself into high school at a decent age.

If you’re not fighting with me, you’re fighting against me, and I will gladly send you to the seventh grade next year…We all want to ride out this year in a calm, peaceful way so we can learn and get an education. That’s what I want, and if you’re not doing it, we’ll see you in seventh grade, iIs that clear? Cause I’m not playing this game, I’m not every day putting out fires cause y’all don’t know how to treat each other well, cause y’all been nothing but around psychodramas and negativity your whole life.You want to deal with your life as street kids, you deal with your life outside, but I’m showing you something different inside.

(Looks at a specific student) We need to be better, is that upsetting you? Me fighting for you to be better is upsetting you? Speak, tell me, this upsets you?…Your eyes and your body language says it all; you don’t have to say the words…so, I’m telling you, you are really not comprehending what is going on here. Your mind is making up and inserting wrong thoughts and wrong interpretations cause there is really nothing for you to be mad at me for right now (Student says I’m not mad at you). Well, you’re mad at something…You shut down, and the only one speaking was me. So, if I said something that angered you or triggered you, tell me what it was so we can straighten it out, or I can explain how maybe you misunderstood it, but if you’re going to shut down and just block everything out, you’re never going to grow, you’re never going to learn how to communicate what’s wrong so that things can get better and things can work out. But you need to learn how to use your words, not your emotions. Emotions are liars, they’re devils, they lie to you. If you make your decisions on an emotion, it’s the wrong decision. You need to make them with your mind.

(Sees student push chair back and make a face) What did I say that made you jump back? You jumped back and got really angry. What was it?

Student: I pushed my chair back, and I sat back, and I started shaking.

But why? What’s going on that’s making you upset?

I don’t know, nothing, I’m good, I aint upset.

So, again we have to understand in the big world, not your little world here, in the real world out here…you can join it and do great things with yourself. You’re nice kids, you got great parenting, you got nice lives, your moms come on field trips, they make you great lunch, but you gotta get yourself educated…Why wouldn’t you want to follow in (your mom’s) footsteps and make her really proud by you coming home and doing really well in school? She’s not impressed by you coming home and putting people down and going through some sort of psychodrama; that’s not impressive. That’s not how you reward your mom who’s done nothing but love you and take care of you. She doesn’t want this nonsense. You think she wants to be called every time you have your phone out? That’s not love, that’s not loving your mama. That’s annoying. You’re too old to be doing that.

I don’t care what goes on, my job is to make sure each and every one of you is safe, to come in here with a clear mind knowing you can come in here and learn. That’s all I care about. I’ve had kids sitting here with ankle bracelets on. I’ve had murderers sitting in my room, and you know what? They never disrespected me or my space cause they knew I was fighting for them for all the good things. So, we are not wasting our energy on this any more, it’s done.”

***

This morning, Boykin and two other parents went to the school to complain. Administrators told them that an investigation was underway but did not share any other information.  Ron Greco, president of the Jersey City Education Association, confirmed this and said that Stone has been re-assigned to the human resources department pending the investigation’s outcome.

Highly rated Academy 1, located in Greenville, sits between Snyder High School and the Jersey City Police Department’s West District. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Education named it a National Blue Ribbon School.

Boykin confirmed that Stone’s outburst was the result of the dispute between the two boys, one of whom was white. Stone, says Boykin, had sided with the white youth. “Her mind was made up. The recording was made because this lady always loses her cool.”

Denise Grant’s son came to the class recently after being bullied in another school and facing significant academic challenges. “It was heartbreaking to hear that my child had to sit through all of that. Those are her personal feelings about the Black community. She took her aggression out on them kids. I felt like the message was too harsh for the kids. I didn’t feel like it was her place to give them that life coaching message.”

Grant continued. “She made comments about Black people being waiting on welfare checks, waiting on social security checks, waiting on Section 8. You know statistically, the majority of people on welfare are the whites.”

Acting Jersey City Schools Superintendent Norma Fernandez told the Jersey City Times, “The district is appalled at the comments made by the individual in the recording. The outburst is unprofessional; the incident under investigation.”

Asked what they wanted to happen to Stone, both mothers replied that they wanted her removed. Said Grant, “I want her job and her pension.”

An email sent to Stone was not returned.

Aaron Morrill

Aaron is a writer, musician and lawyer. Aaron attended Berklee College of Music and the State University of New York at Purchase. Aaron served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador. He received a J.D....