Poly High teacher placed on leave following allegations of racial slur, inappropriate discipline

A Poly High School teacher has been accused by multiple students of using the N-word in class and pulling students by the ear as well as using other forms of inappropriate discipline.

The Long Beach Unified School District said Monday that Libby Huff, a teacher in Poly High’s Pacific Rim Business Academy for high-achieving students, was placed on administrative leave Jan. 13.

The district conducted an investigation and she returned to class last week on Feb. 12. Two days later, on Friday, the district placed Huff on administrative leave again after receiving new complaints.

“The school district is not at liberty to provide details of such investigations,” according to a statement from Chris Eftychiou, spokesman for the district.

A spokeswoman for the Long Beach Police Department said police are also investigating a complaint of child abuse in connection with the allegations.

Arantxa Chavarria said the department was notified Monday by the Department of Children and Family Services of “allegations of criminal conduct by a teacher against students” at the school.

“The Department immediately sent officers to contact the four juvenile victims and reports were taken to document the alleged abuse,” Chavarria said.

Child abuse detectives are in the process of reviewing reports and determining if any more victims and/or witnesses need to be contacted, Chavarria added.

Huff, who did not return phone messages, has taught in the district for 15 years, including 11 years at Poly.

A representative from the Teachers Association of Long Beach could not be reached for comment. Felton Williams, president of the Long Beach Unified school board who represents the Poly High area, referred questions to the district.

When Huff returned to the classroom last week, more than two dozen students published a blog post called “Enough of Huff” that has since received roughly 35,000 views, according to the students involved.

The accusations in the blog post are anonymous, but one student, Malaia Tibbs, a Poly High junior, confirmed she wrote one of the accounts. She said Huff made racist remarks toward students and often sternly pulled students by the ear.

”I’ve actually witnessed her pulling kids by the ear, pulling them by the neck, belittling them,” Tibbs told the Post. “We had to say something.”

The blog post was started by Poly junior Kade Shandrow, who collected the testimonials through a Google document that was shared in a group email. As many as 31 students contributed.

Among the allegations is that Huff used the N-word in a derogatory way following a discussion about the origin of that word.

“The allegations left all of us students stunned and concerned,” Shandrow said. “We decided to create the Google document in the middle of her administrative leave… To be honest and forthright, the students’ ultimate goal is to have Libby Huff terminated from her teaching position at Long Beach Poly High School and never return to teaching our class.”

According to both Shandrow and Tibbs, some students had declined to attend her classes on Feb. 12, when she returned from leave. Shandrow and Tibbs both take Huff’s sixth period class, where tension began to increase.

“I was the first to walk out,” Tibbs said, “when I noticed she was passing out papers and wasn’t acknowledging any of us. I just couldn’t handle sitting in that seat for any longer. I knew it was best for me to leave.”

Shandrow and Tibbs said other members of the class also left on Feb. 12, and the students posted the blog publicly the following day.

The post has also led to a petition from alumni in support of the students calling for past Poly students to “condemn this situation.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated Tuesday with more details from the Long Beach Police Department’s about its investigation into the allegations.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 19 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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