A Connecticut school district is under fire after a Black student reported that his white teacher used a racial slur multiple times in class. Despite the district launching an investigation, no resolution has been made nearly three weeks after the incident.
On Tuesday night, members of the community flooded the West Hartford School Board meeting to show their support for an eighth grade student who said his math teacher at Sedgwick Middle School used derogatory language.
“It is wrong; it is unacceptable and inappropriate,” the boy’s grandmother Lee Thomas-Morton said during the meeting. “There needs to be justice. It needs to be heard, and it needs to be expeditious.”
Just three days into the new school year on Sept. 1, the teacher, who has not been identified, went over classroom policy and profane language, CT Insider reported.
According to the eighth grader’s mother, Che’La’Mora Hardy, her son was excited for the academic year because the family had just moved to the neighborhood, she told local outlet NBC Connecticut. However, when he asked the teacher to elaborate on what she meant by language that couldn’t be used that wasn’t considering cursing, the math teacher said the N-word.
“She said, ‘You don’t even know what it means. It means ‘my slave,’” Hardy told NBC Connecticut, adding that the kids in the room were surprised that the teacher used the word. “She’s like, “Yeah, well, I know you guys are shocked that I said it. I said it, and I can say it because I’m a teacher. You guys can’t because you’re students.’”
CT Insider reported that on Sept. 2, Hardy filed a complaint with the West Hartford School District, claiming the teacher directed the term toward her son as a word that she thought students used “all the time.”
“She racially profiled my kid,” Hardy told the outlet, accusing the teacher of assuming her son used the term because he was Black.
On Sept. 7, West Hartford School District Superintendent Paul Vicinus released a statement to the community saying the teacher had been removed from the classroom while an investigation was underway.
“I want to make it unequivocally clear that derogatory language, racial slurs, and hate speech have no place in our schools and work against our mission to develop a sense of community and belonging,” Vicinus said, according to CT Insider. “Pending the outcome of the investigation, we will take appropriate action, and while we will not prejudge the outcome, the serious nature of this incident may merit suspension and/or termination.”
However, roughly three weeks later, not a squeak was heard from the district and community members rallied together to demand answers.
Just an hour before the school board meeting Tuesday, advocates for the student gathered outside of West Hartford Town Hall with “Black Lives Matter” signs and calls for justice, CT Insider reported.
“I hope that we can find ways to heal the people who were involved and every child in the classroom and every child in West Hartford because they’ve all been impacted,” West Hartford resident Sarah Raskin said. “I just want to recognize that these events don’t happen in a vacuum. They happen as part of systems. One of those systems is just racism in our culture. But at a more local level, this system is the West Hartford Public Schools.
“I just urge and hope that this is an opportunity to look at how it could be possible that a teacher who was in the West Hartford schools could stand in front of a room of children and say something like that,” Raskin continued. “There shouldn't have been a way that somebody who has been vetted by our school system could do that.”
The eighth grader’s grandmother, Thomas-Morton, explained how she was a first-generation Black American and had never been called a slur. But now, her grandson has and will “be affected for the rest of his life.”
“I don’t want this to become an issue where he struggles to go into a classroom because of the color of his skin,” Thomas-Morton said. “It’s about the content of your heart. Whatever you want to do, you can do. I am a professional. Why? Because my family stood behind me. Being first generation wasn't easy, but we made it. We're going to continue to look to see what's going to be done in this situation.”
Yvette Early, a Black woman, addressed the crowd and referred to her own experiences with racial slurs and how the current incident “immediately brought [her] back to [her] childhood.”
“I was 14 and in school history class, and that word was used alongside with the word of slavery,” Early said. “And then, I had my teacher who happened to be white look at me and smile. I was the only Black student in class and having all of the other children laugh at me and mimic me every day.”
Attendee Amy Fishman spoke about school safety and how resource officers don’t always help students of color, especially when pictures of the teacher who allegedly used the racial slur were still seen around the school. Then, she blasted the district’s investigation.
“I saw the safety plan. I think it’s just words, to be perfectly honest because we have no update and we have an eighth grader still going to school with a picture of this woman still up. So, we have to think about how our students of color feel,” Fishman said. “Step out of your white world for five seconds. This is not going away. The conversation is just beginning.”
Every public comment was in support of the eighth grader.
Neither Sedgwick Middle School nor West Hartford School District immediately responded to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment Wednesday.