Breaking News Update: Security Report Released; History of Conflict Between Student and Professor


Denise Diaz

A security vehicle parks on the East Campus campus cul de sac.

Denise Diaz, Senior Reporter

On Oct. 20, a disagreement between Valencia College student Elvira Llerena-Toribio, 40, and Speech and Mass Communication Professor Claudine Tomlinson-Burney, 48, escalated resulting in the use of a racial slur against the professor and security escorting the student off campus. 

Valencia East Campus Security released the report of an incident between the Valencia College student and her professor on Monday.

According to the incident report, East Campus Security Officer, Christopher Delabar, arrived on the scene and verified the student “was still, actively verbally argumentative.” According to witness statements, minutes before the officer’s arrival, Tomlinson-Burney and students of the class confirmed Llerena-Toribio refused to leave when asked. 

In Llerena-Toribio’s witness statement, she said, “I asked her [the professor] for security to be called, that’s [what] she always [does] to me and I already am sick and panicked from her,” at which point Llerena-Toribio said, according to witness statements, “is it because I am white, and you are a n-word?” 

Tomlinson-Burney said in her statement to security that the student “was asked to speak to Ariel Hernandez from the student conduct office. She [the student] was being combative and argumentative… I told the student I was going to call security as she refused to leave. She threatened me and said she was going to report me and that I was being prejudice.”

According to the security report, Llerena-Toribio refused to leave, providing explanations about computer and internet complications that prevented her from connecting with the Director of Student Code of Conduct virtually.

Tomlinson-Burney teaches a mixed-mode Radio and Podcasting course on East Campus; Llerena-Toribio was enrolled in the course this semester. 

According to witnesses, just before the start of class, Tomlinson-Burney and Llerena-Toribio began to argue when Llerena-Toribio was asked to see the Director of Student Code of Conduct, Ariel Hernandez. According to the security report, Llerena-Toribio had already missed several appointments. 

It is uncertain why the student was being referred to connect with the Director of Student Code of Conduct. Hernandez declined to comment about the reasoning and any missed appointments due to student privacy laws. 

The security report also stated that Llerena-Toribio accused Tomlinson-Burney of being a racist and expressed she had prior issues with the professor from Tomlinson-Burney’s Public Relations course.  Llerena-Toribio previously attended that course virtually. 

In her statement, Llerena-Toribio claimed, “I had to [withdraw] because of her [Tomlinson-Burney’s] harassment and aggressive tone when she used to talk to me.” She added, “I consider she was being racist to me because I am white, or she is black.”

Other students in the class witnessed the verbal altercation, supporting the claim of prior issues between the student and the professor. Students from the class claimed Llerena-Toribio was the aggressor stating the student had been consistently disruptive throughout the fall semester. One witness, Valencia College Digital Media student, Jeremy Gottschalk, 35, stated, “there have been multiple other interruptions, interjections, and inappropriate comments made during class from this student.” 

Another student in the class, Valencia General Studies major, Spencer Hayes, 20, said, “It was appalling to hear a student say that to a professor.  I was shocked to hear them say that.”

“It was appalling to hear a student say that to a professor. I was shocked to hear them say that.”

— Valencia College student, Spencer Hayes

Llerena-Toribio also made claims in her report that the professor had a group of students “help favor her in her campaign against me.” No evidence has been found to support this claim. 

According to, Tomlinson-Burney has an overall rating of 2.7. No claims of racial profiling from the professor have been discovered. 

Tomlinson-Burney has over 20 years of experience in communications and broadcasting and has been teaching at Valencia College since July 2016. She also serves Valencia students as a mentor.

According to the Valencia College website, in the spring semester of 2018, Tomlinson-Burney launched the Radio and Podcasting class and called it one of her proudest moments. Valencia Radio also features Tomlinson-Burney every Friday afternoon for a live radio show called ‘Ital Vibez’, aimed to share music and culture of the Caribbean Islands.

After the racial slur was used in the classroom, East Campus security escorted Llerena-Toribio off campus, and she complied. She was encouraged by security not to return until speaking with the Dean of Students. Due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), ongoing disciplinary information cannot be disclosed.  

Valencia President Kathleen Plinske released a statement about the incident saying, “the use of a racial slur for the purpose of insult, disparagement, or harassment is deeply offensive and completely unacceptable in any circumstance. Abusive, racist language and racial slurs are incongruent with the inclusive learning community that we strive to create at Valencia, are a direct violation of our Student Code of Conduct and will not be tolerated.”

Professor Tomlinson-Burney declined to comment on the situation.

The student, Elvira Llerena-Toribio, has not responded to attempts made for a comment. 

CORRECTION:  Ariel Hernandez is the Assistant Director of Student Code of Conduct.  The Voice regrets the error.