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Louisiana public school psychologist defends allegedly racist online posts

WDSU-TV

'People are just sick and tired of the crime,' said Mark Traina, a psychologist with the Jefferson Parish, La., Public Schools.

A school psychologist in suburban New Orleans blames "the liberal media" for a complaint filed by the federal government accusing him of having made numerous racist online comments.


M. Alex Johnson

M. Alex Johnson is a reporter for msnbc.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.


The psychologist, Mark Traina of Slidell, La., is a psychologist with the Jefferson Parish Public Schools in the suburbs of New Orleans. He works with students in the district's so-called alternative schools, where elementary and middle school pupils "with difficulties in learning and, in some cases, in adapting to the rules of school or community" are sent, according to the school district.


Traina is the subject of a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a liberal-leaning civil rights advocacy group, which said it had found "a number of very, very hostile racial comments" on his Twitter account.

The SPLC cited tweets like this:

  • "Angry young black males with no respect for life destroying the U.S."
  • "Serpas should be warning people to stay the hell out of New Orleans! These black dudes will kill you!" (The reference is to Ronal Serpas, the New Orleans police superintendent.)
  • "2 New Orleans policemen shot, 1 suspect dead, another injured. UPDATE|NOLA Quick Someone call David Duke before the NAACP gets here."

Writing under his own name, Traina has posted similar comments on the website of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the newspaper reported.

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Msnbc.com also found similar sentiments on Traina's Twitter account, which was still active as of last week, like this:

Twitter.com

At the same time, other tweets suggest a more nuanced view than the SPLC ascribes to Traina:

Twitter.com

Traina, who in his Times-Picayune user profile describes himself as a "civil rights activist," called the complaint "unfair" in an interview with NBC station WDSU of New Orleans

"Whenever someone speaks out, the liberal media just wants to demonize you," he said.

Traina expanded on those remarks in a long comment posted to the Times-Picayune website last week:

The Southern Poverty Center knows that these allegations are ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE! This is just another way to harass the Jefferson Parish Public School System. One only needs to read the Times Picayune to see who the real trouble makers are. Sadly, it is disproportionately young black males. Everyone knows that our jails throughout the United States are disproportionately filled with black people. Why would the rate be any different in an educational environment?

Traina said he isn't a racist, telling WDSU that he made the online comments "out of frustration."

"There's too much killing going on," he said. "There's just too much crime in the country, and it's not all black on black.

"It's got to be put down. It's got to stop," he added. "People are just sick and tired of the crime."

But Eden Heilman, a senior attorney with the SPLC, which is based in Montgomery, Ala., said Traina's comments were troubling because he's in a "position of authority."

"When students of color are being brought up on discretionary offenses, they're being unfairly sent to the alternative schools," she said.

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