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Norwalk teacher resigns; NPS cites ‘no tolerance for offensive racial slurs’

(File photo)

NORWALK, Conn. — A Norwalk teacher has resigned after a school district investigation into allegations of racist language.

Two Nathan Hale Middle School teachers used racial epithets, according to Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella and Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Colin Hosten.

Estrella and Hosten released a joint statement Tuesday morning. It said:

“Norwalk Public Schools is fortunate to reflect the diversity of the Norwalk community. With that diversity comes responsibility, and we take this opportunity on behalf of the Board of Education and District to be clear that we have no tolerance for offensive racial slurs of any kind.

“On occasion, our students have used racial epithets in their conversation, typically without intending offense or antagonism. Teachers or others repeating such epithets, similarly, would not typically intend offense or antagonism. Sadly, however, two staff members in our school district recently repeated such epithets in our schools. Through our investigation of these two separate events, we determined that the two situations were different. In both cases, we took swift action, and in one case, accepted an employee’s resignation.

“Regardless of context or intention, any use of racial epithets by Norwalk Public Schools staff members is simply wrong and will not be tolerated. We will continue to hold any staff members who use racial epithets under any circumstance accountable for their actions.

“We are committed to maintaining a school environment in which all feel welcome. As the recently approved Board of Education Equity Statement emphasizes, ‘We support equity, diversity and inclusion as fundamental values of our school district to ensure access for ALL scholars.’ We have been providing training on racial sensitivity to staff and students, and these recent incidents impel us to redouble our efforts. On this point, we must be completely clear. Staff members who use racial epithets at any time and in any matter will be subject to serious disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment. There is simply no excuse for the use of any racial epithet in Norwalk Public Schools, by anyone at any time.

“Language has the power to hurt and the power to heal. We expect all members of the Norwalk Public Schools community to respect each other. By showing sensitivity in racial matters and by following this clear expectation, the members of the Board of Education, the Superintendent and her staff, and the entire school community must continue to work together to maintain a school environment in which all can thrive.”

 

 

NancyOnNorwalk first became aware of the situation last week via an anonymous email.

“Racism has run rampant at Nathan Hale Middle School in Norwalk,” the writer said. “First, a … teacher said the N word over the walkie talkie system about a month ago. Several students, parents, and teachers heard her say this reprehensible word multiple times. The … teacher was never sent home or placed on any sort of leave.”

The second incident involved a different teacher, who “said the N word to a group of students in her homeroom and proceeded to repeat the word several times,” the writer said. “When students confronted her and asked her not to use the word, she dug deeper and said, ‘no one owns the word’, her ‘family never had slaves so she use the word freely’, and she has a ‘freedom to say/use the word.’”

Norwalk Branch NAACP President Brenda Penn-Williams, in a statement, said Thursday that NPS had responded to the first incident “in a manner that equates to pretty much nothing.” She said, “We are outraged that these types of incidents are now continuing and we are particularly incensed that teachers are allowed to engage in negative racist language without penalty or consequence.”

Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Mary Yordon has not responded to a Monday evening email giving her the opportunity to comment on the incidents.

“Racism has no place in our society and definitely not in our school system,” Mayor Harry Rilling said in a statement. “That one of our teachers would feel comfortable using racist language in their classroom in front of students is deeply troubling. I am sorry that our students were subjected to this incident. The Norwalk Police Department is reviewing this incident to see if it rises to the level of a bias crime. Regardless of any criminal charges, teachers that would use such language should not be allowed in the classroom.”

The Common Council also released a statement.

“Norwalk prides itself on being a diverse city where all are welcome,” it said. “The Common Council is aware of two allegations of Norwalk Public Schools employees using racial slurs. While we cannot comment on personnel matters, the Council strongly affirms its belief in the dignity of each of its residents and the expectation that every city employee will treat every resident with respect at all times. This includes an obligation not to use hate speech, racial slurs, or any form of derogatory language about any group of people. The Council is committed to personnel policies that make that expectation clear to all employees and hold them accountable for any violations.”

4 comments

Jim Tru December 8, 2021 at 5:58 pm

If the individual “resigns” rather than being “terminated” are the still eligible for benefits/pension?

Once again, the superintendent asleep at the wheel and the BOE clueless.

Maybe our Mayor can step in and drive some accountability because the BOE is totally over their head and the superintendent is useless.

steve December 9, 2021 at 12:15 pm

Seems like the BOE main office resolved this expeditiously but those looking to gratuitously pile on…well they’ll gratuitously pile on. Give credit where credit is due- a problem was found, that person is gone- the question for the BOE is how do we ensure that this type of incidence occurs rarely and/or never.

John Fitzpatrick December 10, 2021 at 11:36 am

The reporting on this has been curiously opaque. Did the individual make viciously insulting references to individuals? Was is a case of carelessly bandying offensive street language? Or was the teacher explaining the history of the language (“niger” to “negro” and so forth)? Or was this simply explication of a familiar term in the work of Mark Twain, Harper Lee, Margaret Mitchell, or any number of African American writers? There is a wide range of usage here, and it is impossible to evaluate the situation without precise description.

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