Footage of the incident quickly gained traction online on Wednesday after it was shared on various social media platforms. Although the faces of schools officials and students cannot be seen in the recording, media reports have identified the offending teacher as Wendy Brilowski.
The video shows Brilowski, who reportedly taught social studies classes at Highland Park Middle School, standing in a dim hallway with at least six other individuals as a seventh person seems to record the conversation in secret.
"I just walk around the room and I just pick on them… ‘cause they're black, and they're the only f**king n***ers doing any work," says the individual identified as Brilowski. She later appears to regret her words, saying, "I know, I'm sorry."
Disgusted, one of the individuals in the hallway with Brilowski responds by saying, "I'm done with you," before walking away.
As that person moves out of the frame, a staff member seems to jump to Brilowski's defense by explaining that she was just repeating remarks that had been previously said aloud. "No, no, no that's what you just said," the official can be heard saying before the video cuts off.
Brandy Coleman, the mother of one of the students involved in the confrontation, told local Minneapolis news station KARE 11 that the video was the result of months-long tension between her daughter and Brilowski. Coleman informed the station that Brilowski had previously referred to her daughter and other students as "negroes."
"It breaks my heart that I didn't know the magnitude of the situation so that I could intervene before that video," Coleman said.
The day after the footage was posted online, SPPS released a video statement on the matter, condemning the language used by the now-suspended instructor.
"I, like many others, am very disturbed by the racist language that was captured on video in one of our schools," Joe Gothard, superintendent of SPPS, says in the statement.
"I apologize to you, and I can assure you that we are taking appropriate action and conducting a thorough review of the situation. It's up to us to repair harm, to rebuild trust, to work together as a community in service of educating our children," he concluded.
A joint written statement from Gothard and Char Hoff, the principal of Highland Park, indicates that the teacher will remain on administrative leave pending the outcome of the district's review of the incident. According to Twin Cities Pioneer Press, Brilowski was hired in 2013 and has no prior disciplinary history.