The parents of an elementary school student urged the Muscogee County School Board on Monday night to fire the teacher they say admitted using the N-word in the presence of their daughter. Muscogee County School District superintendent David Lewis told the parents that the teacher will be dealt with appropriately but policy prohibits disclosing the discipline.
Equisha and Nathan Frazier addressed the board during the public agenda portion of its monthly meeting about the incident that happened Sept. 7 at Reese Road Leadership Academy.
Mr. Frazier said the teacher was responding to something that another girl directed at his daughter and told her in the presence of another black student and a white student, “At least she didn’t refer to you as a dumb, black, Negro (N-word),” Mr. Frazier said. “And I’m saying it exactly how she said it to my child.”
“This is something that should not be allowed at all,” Mr. Frazier said. “She should not be allowed to teach these children. This is a toxic thing. It’s not just black children; this affects every child.”
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With the administration refusing to explain the action being taken, Mr. Frazier said, “We feel like it’s been brushed under the rug. It seems as though the educator is being protected more so than our children being looked after.”
Mrs. Frazier said the teacher admitted to using the racial slur.
“That’s the problem I have with you as a board,” Mrs. Frazier said. “I need you to fight for my baby.”
With her voice cracking as she fought back tears, Mrs. Frazier continued, “My baby experienced something. She was opened up to something that she shouldn’t have to be opened up to. She doesn’t see color.”
“This isn’t about no money for me; this is about what’s right for my baby and these other children,” Mrs. Frazier said. “It’s not right. You need to deal with this situation or it’s going to occur, it’s going to continue to happen, if you don’t cut the snake off at the head.”
“Now, please,” Mrs. Frazier said. “Y’all, hear my heart’s cry. Stand up for my baby and fight for these children, y’all. Do what’s right.”
Then the mother asserted what she thinks should be the school district’s response: The teacher “needs to be terminated,” Mrs. Frazier said.
Board members and administrators normally don’t respond to citizens who speak during the public agenda. But this time was one of the exceptions.
Vice chairwoman Kia Chambers, the nine-member board’s lone countywide representative, told the Fraziers, “My heart goes out to you. As your at-large representative, I apologize to you. I remember when your child was born. I know you guys as a family. I know she’s being raised in a Christian home, and it hurts me as well. … No child should be put in that situation.”
Chambers also apologized for the Fraziers feeling they had to transfer their daughter to another school.
“From the child’s perspective,” Chambers said, “it looks like a punishment. She has to readjust, find new friends, and that can be traumatic for a student.”
Chambers said Lewis would share in closed session with the board the administration’s response to the incident.
“I don’t want you all to think that there has been absolutely nothing done,” Chambers said.
Board chairwoman Pat Hugley Green of District 1 told the Fraziers, “The superintendent has assured us that it has been addressed, and that is private information, but we do not – under any circumstances, and I speak for this board and the rest of the educators in our school system – that type of language or behavior is not condoned. It’s unacceptable, and I’m going to trust that the superintendent is going to have the appropriate actions.”
Mrs. Frazier asked, “Where’s the line crossed? Where’s the standard set to where it’s an automatic means of termination?”
Before any official answered, the mother continued: “I need you to take off your hats and your suits and everything, and I need you to think if it was your child, if it was a white child and a black teacher. I need you to think. I need you to really sit back and think. This is more than just policy; something needs to be done, or this is going to happen again.”
Mr. Frazier noted, “It has happened in several other accounts, but this time it came to the forefront.”
Referring to the teacher, Mrs. Frazier added, “The sad thing is that she’s a 16-year vet. She has family. She has four beautiful little boys. I’m a mother; she’s a mother. I could see if she’s a new, fresh teacher, maybe she didn’t understand, she made a mistake. But (she is) a 16-year veteran, so she should know better. Something has to be done.”
Lewis told the Fraziers the administration has “conducted a very thorough investigation, and we are taking the appropriate action, I can assure you.”
But that action won’t be discussed in public, in accordance with board policy, Lewis said.
The Ledger-Enquirer emailed Lewis and MCSD human resources chief Kathy Tessin several questions about the incident, including why the administration won’t say what the consequences are for an employee with such a violation.
Tessin replied, “Muscogee County School District does not tolerate racial slurs or discriminatory behavior by anyone in our organization. In instances where such behavior is determined to have occurred, disciplinary action is taken. As an employer, and in accordance with Board Policy GAE, the District investigates any such allegations and takes appropriate disciplinary and corrective action but does not disclose the specifics regarding personnel matters. The principal of Reese Road Elementary, Katrina Collier-Long, East Region Chief Dr. Ron Wiggins, representatives from the school district’s Division of Human Resources and Kathy Tessin, Chief Human Resources Officer, have been part of the investigation process since the complaint first came to us on September 7th, and appropriate personnel action was taken regarding the situation.”