A Hamilton Middle School teacher has been asked not to return to school after she allegedly used a racial slur against a student.
Madison Metropolitan School District officials said a seventh grade science and social studies teacher was sent home Thursday afternoon and has been asked not to return to school pending the outcome of an investigation into the Wednesday incident.
A student’s mother told Madison365 that in response to a conversation between students late Wednesday, the teacher repeatedly said, “How would you like it if I called you a n——?”
The student is the only African American student in that class, the student’s mother said.
Hamilton Middle School, named for African American civil rights and education pioneer Velma Hamilton, is six percent African American, according to state Department of Public Instruction data. The district overall is about 18 percent African American.
The student’s mother called on her friend Sabrina Madison, the founder of the Progress Center for Black Women who frequently volunteers as an advocate for Black students. Madison accompanied the student’s mother to a meeting with Hamilton principal Jessica Taylor, who Madison said was receptive and respectful.
“I will just say that everybody was very receptive,” Madison said. “I felt that they were very much receptive to immediately addressing what had happened and ensuring that her daughter wasn’t more harmed by it. … I didn’t feel like they were trying to brush it away. They actually listened to us, they’ve taken steps and they’re very respectful. Because so far, things are moving at a pace that I’m satisfied with. That doesn’t always happen. We gave the school the opportunity to be accountable and to show up and so far they are. They actually are.”
“What I do know is that when me and Sabrina went in, the assistant principal and the principal (were) very apologetic,” the student’s mother said. “They kept apologizing. They said that the teacher obviously admitted it. I think she said she was trying to teach (my daughter) something. (I’m) trying to figure out how calling someone a racial slur could ever teach them anything.”
Deputy Chief of Schools Tremayne Clardy happened to be at Hamilton for another reason but was apprised of the situation and helped address it.
“Honestly I’m pretty glad I was pulled into it. Actually I wouldn’t even categorize it as being pulled into it. It’s my responsibility to respond … if one of these types of situations arise,” he said.
The incident had a “ripple effect” beyond the teacher, the student’s mother said.
“One of her peers from the same classroom taunting her, calling her the n-word,” she said. “It kinda normalized it and now students have called her this.”
Clardy said this reaction will be addressed.
“I will be working with the principal … to make sure that language like that is understood to be completely unacceptable in school in any context,” he said. “Just a historical negativity that goes with that word, we have to make sure that it’s not used in our school.”
The student’s mother said she has been home since Friday.
“What am I supposed to do as a mother? I can’t keep her in that environment where she doesn’t even feel safe,” she said. “(My daughter) spends a lot of time with her, the teacher. The bond that they built is completely broken now. The trust that they had is completely broken. That’s what saddens me is that the very student that she took the time to know and understand and grow with, is the very student that she took five seconds to tear down to the point where she doesn’t even want to go to school.”
Taylor did not respond to a phone message seeking comment. A woman who answered the teacher’s cell phone declined to identify herself or comment.