The week after the Muscogee County School District reassigned to a non-classroom position the teacher who used the N-word while speaking to three elementary school students, a school board member has proposed a “zero tolerance” policy against racial slurs.
Muscogee County School Board representative John Thomas of District 2 emailed the proposal to fellow board members Wednesday night and asked board secretary Karen Jones to put it on the agenda for Monday’s work session, starting at 5 p.m. in the Muscogee County Public Education Center. Thomas told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email Thursday night that he heard his proposal indeed will be on the agenda.
Here is Thomas’ proposed policy:
“The Muscogee County School Board believes that all students can learn better in a safe school environment. Behavior that infringes on the well-being of students will not be tolerated. The Muscogee County School Board thereby adopts a prohibition against communication of racial slurs, either verbal or written, by all district employees in all classifications of employment.
“This prohibition will not extend to the instructional and classroom use of historical or literary works which include racial slurs, but any teacher employing such instructional material must give prior notification to the school principal of the intent to use it and obtain acknowledgment that the material will be presented and discussed in order to establish an educational context for its use in the classroom.
“Further, the prohibition against racial slurs extends beyond the classroom to every department and job description in the district; the prohibition is a system-wide, whole workplace, all-inclusive ban of racial slurs in the Muscogee County School District regardless of job, department, or intent.
“Such prohibition shall be included in the Personnel Handbook for all District employees and be included in the Student Code of Conduct for all schools within the school system.”
Thomas told the Ledger-Enquirer, “There is no current policy addressing this specific issue.”
The Ledger-Enquirer asked Thomas what the consequences would be for violating his proposed policy. He replied in an email, “Zero tolerance = termination. Setting an unquestioned standard of conduct.”
MCSD announced Friday the following disciplinary action against the Reese Road Leadership Academy teacher who admitted to using the N-word:
▪ Suspended her for two days without pay.
▪ Reassigned her to an undisclosed non-classroom position.
▪ Issued her a letter of reprimand and placed it in her personnel file.
▪ Required her to attend “cultural competency” training.
Also in the Sept. 29 news release, MCSD said its investigation of the Sept. 1 incident concluded Sept. 26 and found that the teacher used “a racial slur in an attempt to explain to a group of elementary school students that this same word should not be tolerated. The teacher’s choice of language, though intended to teach a lesson about racial tolerance, was misguided. … A teacher should never use a racial slur or expletive in the course of teaching students not to use the same word. MCSD does not tolerate the use of racial slurs in any context.”
The teacher, in a statement emailed to the Ledger-Enquirer on Sept. 29, recalled saying to the student, “If someone called me a white cracker, I would be offended. If someone called you a black n-----, that would be offensive. If someone called my biracial cousin mixed girl, that would be offensive.”
During the Muscogee County School Board’s meeting Sept. 18, the parents of the student the teacher was talking to, Equisha and Nathan Frazier, urged the Muscogee County School Board to fire the teacher. They also gave a different version of what the teacher told their daughter.
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, n-----,” Mr. Frazier said. “And I’m saying it exactly how she said it to my child.”
The Georgia Professional Standards Commission confirmed Tuesday that an ethics complaint has been filed against the teacher.
According to the Georgia Code of Ethics for Educators, the commission is “authorized to suspend, revoke, or deny certificates, to issue a reprimand or warning, or to monitor the educator’s conduct and performance after an investigation is held and notice and opportunity for a hearing are provided to the certificate holder.”
Tuesday evening, Bettina Davies, a network attorney for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and an attorney with Cauthorn Nohr & Owen in Marietta, issued the following statement in response to the Ledger-Enquirer seeking the teacher’s reaction to the complaint:
“The teacher, who is well regarded by parents and colleagues, says that she sincerely regrets her use of a racial slur. She is adamant that her intentions were pure: She was illustrating that the use of this word is unacceptable. It is truly a teachable moment that has been blown out of proportion and misreported. The teacher asked to meet with the parents of the students involved, but they declined the invitation.
“The school system has completed a thorough investigation, one that found inconsistencies in how the children perceived the incident. One of the children recanted her statement of the event, telling school system investigators that what really happened supports what the teacher told investigators. The parents of that child have apologized for getting angry before understanding all the facts.
“The teacher was dealing real-time with a sensitive situation and now — with the benefit of hindsight — there is no question she would have handled it differently.”