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Miami-Dade Public Schools previously disciplined a former MAST Academy math teacher for making racist remarks before a black student came forward last year, according to an investigative report released Friday.

Teacher Fernando Carasusan retired last June after being put on alternative assignment following a complaint by then-senior Aniyah Upshaw with the district’s Office of Civil Rights Compliance. Upshaw said at a news conference at the time that Carasusan frequently made racist remarks in class.

Other students at the June 2 news conference said racist remarks from their peers were tolerated at MAST.

Carasusan, according to the report, had been investigated twice in 2022 for alleged harassment of students based on race. Both investigations found probable cause for violations of the district policy.

Attorney Sue-Ann Robinson and Aniyah Upshaw at news conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., about alleged racism at MAST Academy, Fri. June 2, 2023. Upshaw, a recent MAST graduate, filed a complaint with the Miami-Dade school board. (KBI video/John Pacenti)

Carasusan declined to be interviewed or participate in the investigation, the report stated. The information was conveyed through United Teachers of Dade representative Karyn Cunningham. 

A message, a text and an email left for Cunningham and the union weren’t immediately returned Monday morning.

The school district issued a reprimand on Aug. 12, 2022, and required Carasusan to have one-on-one training on “creating a safe and inclusive educational environment.” The report does not give details on the previous violations.

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Yet, the next school year, after Upshaw organized a presentation on black dance, she said Carasusan told her he expected to see people “banging on bongos” and “doing the dances.” The teacher also played music in class and used an offensive term to refer to black people, she said.

The report only refers to Upshaw by her initials.

“A.U. alleged that Mr. Carasusan made comments to other students about allegations of him being racist and mocked that black students would leave his class, almost as if he were bragging about it,” the report stated.

A public records request was made for the report in January. After repeated follow-ups, the Independent contacted the County’s Inspector General’s office and the document was turned over on Friday.

Image of MAST teacher Fernando Carasusan in 2023 yearbook (Photo/Miami-Dade Schools)

MAST Principal Cadian Collman-Perez, interviewed for the investigation, said that Carasusan knew the subject matter of the content he taught “but his delivery was not always conducive to a nurturing learning environment.”

Carasusan, she said, often would go off-topic and try to find ways to connect to the students using social issues, race, gender and current affairs.

Another student, not identified, said Carasusan did make math understandable, but “he is not fit to be a teacher because he is not professional. You have to be constantly on the defense in his class.”

Carasusan started working as a teacher for the district in 1989 at Miami Jackson Senior High School before transferring to MAST in 2012. The report says he did not cooperate or make a statement in the investigation.

Carasusan did not return a message left on a phone number that records show is associated with him. Upshaw could not be contacted. Her attorney did not return a message for comment.

The school district has precluded Carasusan from future employment with it.

Upshaw also made a complaint about a vice principal – who she felt targeted her unfairly because of race by mentioning her attire – but the new report makes no mention of it.

Investigators interviewed another student who voiced concerns that racism at MAST can be prevalent within the student body.

Student No. 2 said that racial slurs are often heard on the bus and that there are little if no consequences for the perpetrators. The report, however, does not make any conclusions about the student’s experiences except that she wasn’t complaining about any teachers.

Collman-Perez, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for MAST’s new solar panels last November, said she commended the student for coming forward.

“That is something that we made sure that we address at the very beginning of the school year  (in August) to remind students that we are an inclusive school culture, and if they should encounter any type of behavior, such as those mentioned, to come forward.”

JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.