Skip to content

‘N” Word At Local School, Lack Of Reason From Madison Schools

October 18, 2019

It goes without saying that the ‘n’ word should not be used in a derogatory way in our public schools.  Frankly, it should not be used as a derogatory manner in society at large.  But having said that the news this week from Madison Schools is not logical or reasoned.

A black security guard at West High School said he was defending himself from a student who called him the N-word last week, repeating the word as he told the student not to use the slur, which led to his termination Wednesday.

Marlon Anderson said he no longer works for the Madison School District after 11 years because of his response to a disruptive student calling him a “flurry” of variations of the N-word. But Madison School District officials say there is a zero-tolerance approach to employees using racial slurs.

Today, with warming conditions and sunshine galore, African-American high school students are doing the correct thing.  They are making a public statement with a march to the school district’s main building, that the over-reach in school language policy must not be tolerated.  After all, the guard was making an attempt at a learning moment with the person who hurled the offensive word.

Madison Schools has bound language to the extent that a person was fired for using the word in an instructive way.  That borders on incredulous. 

On Wednesday afternoon, West High Principal Karen Boran sent an email to families about a “serious incident” that involved “a staff member using a racial slur with students.”

“As you know, our expectation when it comes to racial slurs has been very clear,” Boran said. “Regardless of context or circumstance, racial slurs are not acceptable in our schools.”

Over the years I have had conversations with teachers who are not pleased with the straitjacket placed on them when it comes to word usage in the schools.  One history teacher told me it was not possible to present a full view of certain periods in our past with such limitations.  Another teacher informed me that the topic of words, and the blow-back from school administration, is a constant internal conversation among employees.

I want the teachers union to fight like hell to make sure the guard at the school is reinstated with back pay.  We see all too often on the local level some have a zeal for purity in all things.  Even when common-sense and reason clearly demonstrates such purity to be absolutely wrong.

Over the 13 years that this blog has operated I have opined on the use of the ‘n’ word in schools, but usually in the context of literature and history.  I have strong feelings that words should not be whitewashed from great texts such as with Huckleberry Finn.  I cringe as the 1884 book is now being published without the word ‘nigger’.  In its place will be the more sterile word ‘slave’.  I find this censorship highly troubling.

The mentality of the Madison School Board and kindred folks nationwide seem to think themselves to be better wordsmiths than Twain.  That we would allow teaching moments from texts to be removed is wrong.  Racism was and remains a real and troubling part of our society.  To attempt to whitewash it from a text takes away the one thing that we need more than anything else.  That being a protracted and highly engaged conversation about racism.  The actions of our local school administration this week makes that most evident. 

Even after the many decades of work and public policy aimed to construct our society to be more equal we are still limited from a real dialogue on racism.  If we can not get over the mere usage of the word ‘nigger’ in an instructive way by a school employee how can we move to a higher level of awareness in our communities or legislatures when confronting racism?

And so it goes.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: