The teacher who used the N-word in reference to a 9-year-old student at Reese Road Leadership Academy shared her account of the incident in a written statement to Muscogee County school officials four days after it happened.
The teacher’s Atlanta-based attorney, Bettina Davies, emailed the teacher’s statement to the Ledger-Enquirer on Friday evening.
Cindy Miller, a public relations consultant representing the family and working on the legal team, said the teacher, who has 16 years of teaching experience, wouldn’t agree to have her name released because she and her family have received threats on social media and sheriff’s deputies are currently patrolling their home.
In the statement released to the Ledger-Enquirer, the girls involved in the incident are referred to as Child 1, Child 2, and Child 3 to protect their privacy. When asked via email which of the children is the one whose parents have complained about the teacher’s use of the the N-word, Miller responded saying: “Ms. Davies does not wish to identify any of the children involved.”
The attorney also released a letter of reprimand that Superintendent David Lewis sent to the teacher on Sept. 26, with the teacher’s name and other identifying information redacted.
In a statement released to the media Friday, Lewis said the teacher had been suspended for two days without pay from Sept. 26 to 28, and has since been reassigned to a non-classroom position.
The teacher’s account
The incident began Sept. 1 when three students in her homeroom class entered the classroom at about 11:05 a.m., arguing and calling each other names, according to the teacher’s statement. That led to a conversation about race.
“I stepped in to calm the situation because I could see they were upset,” the teacher wrote. “One student (Child 1) said the other two students, (Child 2) & (Child 3), kept calling her a liar while they were in the gym. I asked them if that was true. (Child 3) said, ‘Yes,’ because she said she is an Indian.” (Child 2) agreed with her statement.”
The teacher wrote that she told the girls that the first child’s story was true to the best of her knowledge, because the girl’s mother had talked to her about their family history.
“I even told them that her grandad and uncle may come to our class and give a demonstration of their family heritage,” she wrote.
“(Child 3) said, ‘Well (Child 1) is being a racist,” she continued. “I asked her how, and she said, ‘because she called me black.’”
The teacher asked (Child 1), if that was true and she said, “She is.”
“I asked (Child 3) why that comment made her think (Child 1) is a racist and she said, ‘I’m not black.’”
“I asked her, ‘What does your mom call you?’ She said, ‘brown.’”
The teacher wrote that she began to say, “We are all different colors and the color of our skin shouldn’t matter. We don’t need to call anyone by the color of their skin, but that is how we identify our ethnic backgrounds.”
“I asked the girls to hold out their arms and we compared the different shades of our skin tones,” she wrote. “We agreed that I was the whitest, followed by (Child 1) with a more tanned skin tone, (Child 3), then (Child 2) of which had the darkest skin color. I then gave examples of how calling someone by their skin color could be offensive.”
The teacher then said, “If someone called me, white cracker, I would be offended. If someone called you a black n-----, that would be offensive,” she wrote. “If someone called my biracial cousin, mixed girl, that would be offensive.”
She asked again, “Did (Child 1) say it in a way that made you feel offended?”
(Child 3) said, “Yes, ’cause she said, at least I’m not black,” the teacher wrote. “I then told (Child 1), ‘That would have hurt my feelings too, because of the way you said it.’”
“I told the three girls, ‘You should all be proud of your color,’” she wrote. “I even said, ‘Our colors aren’t bad things, they’re beautiful things.’”
She told the girls they should apologize for calling each other names, she wrote in the statement.
“(Child 1) apologized by saying, ‘I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,’” she wrote. “(Child 2) apologized by saying, ‘I’m sorry I called you a liar.’ (Child 3) apologized by saying, ‘I’m sorry for calling you names.’ They went back to their seats and we continued doing Native American presentations. The girls didn’t seem to be upset about it anymore and continued to talk to each other throughout the day, including on the playground.”
The teacher’s version of the story differs from that of the girls’ parents, Equisha and Nathan Frazier. The couple has said the teacher responded to something another girl said to her daughter, saying, “At least she didn’t refer to you as a dumb, black n-----.” At a Sept. 18 meeting, they urged the Muscogee County school board to fire the teacher.
In his letter of reprimand, Lewis recounted the teacher’s version of the story, as well as that of the student and her parents.
“In the investigation conducted by Mrs. Katrina Collier-Long and our HR Division, which included meetings on September 5, September 7 and September 25, you were forthcoming about what occurred, and that this word was uttered by you,” he wrote. “However, the context in which you shared it differed from the student and parents’ interpretation.”
He said a Physical Education teacher provided a statement about the racial taunting that allegedly occurred between the three students during PE, and that he attempted to address it.
“It was between three students and the non-African American student made a disparaging comment about the other two being black,” the superintendent continued. “You stated that in order to address her hurtful comments and their comments and their obvious hurt feelings, you asked her within earshot of the other two girls if people’s feelings would be hurt by certain language and listed some examples, including the offensive word above.
“In interviews and written statements by two other students, the concerned parents’ complaint could not be substantiated, in that you were giving examples of hurtful words, one of them being this offensive word,” he wrote. “Another parent also came to the principal before the close of this investigation, and apologized for having become angry about the situation as her daughter later came back and altered her version of the events to her mother, which supported the teacher’s version of the day’s events.”
Lewis wrote that teacher must exhibit unquestionable professionalism, creating classrooms free from inappropriate language and racial bias.
“Your use of unprofessional words was an ineffective way to address the situation,” the letter of reprimand read. “I appreciate your own self-reflection, and identifying for your administrator on your own that you failed in your attempt to address name calling appropriately in your classroom.”