A Black security guard says he has been terminated from Madison West High School because he used a racial slur while defending himself from a student using the same slur.
Marlon Anderson, who has been employed by the district for 11 years — eight at Madison East and three at West — told Madison365 in an interview Tuesday that he responded to a call of a disruptive student on Wednesday, October 9, and found Assistant Principal Jennifer Talarczyk escorting a student out of the building. Anderson said he attempted to intervene when the student pushed Talarczyk’s hand off his shoulder, at which point the student began calling him a series of profanities, including the n-word.
Anderson said he responded by saying a repeated combination of “Don’t call me that, don’t call me the n-word, and don’t call me n*****,” using the word.
Anderson said Talarczyk told him to “back off” and “tap out,” but that she did not address the student for using the word. Anderson said the student is also Black.
Anderson said he did not touch the student and did not raise his voice more than necessary.
Still, Talarczyk held the microphone of her radio, which is connected to the earpieces of the administrators, security staff and several teachers, near to Anderon’s face, so the rest of the staff could hear what he was saying.
“I have a radio too, so I could hear myself saying, ‘Don’t call me that word,'” Anderson said. “And it made me kind of look at her like, wow, she’s just targeting me. She’s just trying to set me up. That was going through my head. So I finished that sentence, ‘Stop calling me the n-word,’ and she’s still saying, ‘You need to step back, you need to back off.’ And I basically told her, and you need to address, this student who is calling me the N word, and not once did you correct his behavior, but you’re yelling at me.”
Anderson said two days later, on Friday, October 11, Madison West Principal Karen Boran called Anderson into her office.
“She found me, pulled me into the office and said, ‘I have been talking to the district, this is an uphill battle.’ I didn’t know what she was talking about,” he said. “(She said) ‘Because the word was used, there’s the policy, a zero-tolerance policy. So you’re going to be fighting politics.’ So I was like, ‘Oh, the situation with the student,’ and she said, ‘Yeah. I’m going to fight for you,’ is what she said.”
Anderson said he had a hearing with the district on Monday evening and had community supporters with him, but did not learn of his termination until Wednesday afternoon.
An email to parents from Boran on Wednesday reads, in part, “I’m writing to inform you of a serious incident that occurred at West High School last week. The incident involves a staff member using a racial slur with students. We have investigated the incident, and the staff member will not return to West.”
It does not say Anderson was terminated from the district, though in a text message to Madison365 Wednesday, Anderson wrote, “They are going forward with termination, so the fight begins.”
“”We have been clear in our expectations,” interim superintendent Jane Belmore said in a statement. Regardless of context or circumstance, racial slurs are not acceptable in our schools. It is a standard we will continue to hold for professional conduct. This expectation has been shared several times through communication and professional development. It has been applied consistently and will continue to be applied consistently.”
Several teachers and other staff members resigned or were terminated from the school district last year for using racial slurs, though none were directed at students. In one instance, a Black student was using a derogatory term against a white classmate, and her white teacher asked, “how would you like it if I called you a n*****?”
Anderson’s wife Ozanne said that question carries a different meaning coming from a white teacher versus a Black one.
“Context is everything given our American history,” said Ozanne Anderson. “The sensitivity of it is, how would you like me, a white female, saying, ‘how would you like it if I called you (the n-word)?’ Now if a black female teacher would have said, ‘how would you like it if I call you that,’ the student might’ve even been like, ‘alright.’ Without context, there’s no way we can tackle the damage of this word.”
Tackling the damage of the word is something Marlon Anderson said he tries to do every day.
He said at least three to five times a week, he hears students using the n-word — often affectionately with each other — and usually intervenes to ask them not to use it.
“I say, ‘that word was given to us in oppression,’” Anderson said. “‘Now we are free and we are the only ones that are using the word.’ I’ll say, do you see Latinos running around calling each other derogatory terms? Do you say Asians running around calling each other derogatory terms? I say, ‘we are the only race that does openly,’ and I say, ‘we need to look at that.’ And I have this conversation with kids, honestly, all the time. Maybe three, four, five times a week, I’m having a conversation with kids about the n-word.”
He also said once or twice a year, he has the word used against him by an angry student, and responds by using the word in the same context he did last week — “Don’t call me a n****.” He said in every other instance, administration has sided with him to correct the behavior of the student, and it’s resulted in what he calls a “restorative process.”
“The first time it happened was at East,” Anderson said. “The principal basically started this restorative conversation. He asked if I wanted the student suspended, I said no, I don’t want the student suspended. I wanted him to learn that this word, he shouldn’t be looking at Black people and saying that’s what we are. We’re not that. So it was a restorative conversation. Student did not get suspended. And at the end of the conversation we shook hands and the student apologized.”
Anderson said he was aware of a zero-tolerance policy for racial slurs, but does not recall any specific training for security staff.
He also said he would agree that anyone of any race who uses a racial slur against a student should be terminated.
“I can understand (being terminated) if I looked at a student and said, ‘You dumb blanketty-blank,’” he said.
Anderson said he has a clean disciplinary record and is widely respected by students.
“One of my favorite years in the district was 2015 when the students (of Madison East) nominated me to be the keynote speaker at graduation,” he said. “And I was like, ‘are y’all serious?’ I was holding back tears.’”
As of Tuesday, current students had already been circulating a petition on Anderson’s behalf. Anderson’s son is president of the Madison West Black Student Union. At least a few fellow West staffers promised to help defend him on Facebook.
In response to a Facebook post Wednesday in which Anderson announced his termination, special education assistant Katy Farness wrote, “I certainly thought they would do the right thing by you, and I’m so sorry they didn’t, we just lost one of the best staff at the school and im sorry they don’t realize it but a lot of us at the school do,” adding, “we about to get crackin!!”
Cross categorical teacher Dawn Drobac Hahn wrote, “Marlon, you are a huge asset to WHS and are always kind and caring to our students.”
Anderson declined to say Wednesday what his next steps would be. School district officials declined to say what consequences, if any, the student faced for using slurs against Anderson, and declined to discuss the details of the incident. Another security guard who witnessed the incident declined to speak with Madison365.
UPDATE: Our content partner Channel3000.com reports that Madison West students are planning a walkout on Friday to protest Anderson’s termination.