Decatur High students stage walkout, call for more action after teacher uses racist slur in classStudents at Decatur High School staged a walkout on Friday Dec. 16, 2022, demanding action after a teacher used a slur in front of students. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Decatur, GA — Dozens of students walked out of Decatur High School on Friday, Dec. 16, to call for more action from City Schools of Decatur after a teacher was disciplined following his use of a racial slur in front of students.
“The word that was used was the n-word,” Superintendent Maggie Fehrman previously said. “It was used in the context of correcting a student that he heard use the word. Neither the student nor the teacher directed the word at anyone, but the teacher repeated the word that the student used in telling the student it was inappropriate language. CSD cannot provide any further details about the incident or the consequences, as that is a confidential personnel matter.”
In her newsletter, Fehrman also addressed a separate incident that happened at DHS where a swastika was included in the student musical. The newsletter didn’t provide any additional details about the incident.
“As a white woman and an anti-racist, I believe racial slurs and symbols of oppression are never acceptable in any context. As the superintendent for CSD, I am committed to addressing and interrupting racism where and when I see it,” Fehrman said.
“As I have learned more about these situations, it is clear that both of these were harmful to students, members of our community, and to CSD staff members,” she added. “I want to assure our students, staff, and community that there are several layers to our approach in addressing these situations as work is done to repair the harm committed.”
Senior Mikka Wolff, co-president of the Black Student Union, said students have a few demands for CSD and DHS.
“People were appalled in the class. Everybody was shocked. This is not something acceptable for a teacher to say,” Wolff said. “They asked him what he had said. You know what he did, he repeated it, twice more he said the n-word. One time was a possibility of it being a mistake. But two more times, being three times in total, that is not a mistake. After that, he sat down at his desk and he said, ‘I can say whatever I want.'”
Students would like to see the teacher removed from the school’s equity board, and be at least be suspended from the school.
“We do not want a precedent to be set that derogatory abuses may be used freely in the classroom, so we demand that the teacher be at least suspended, if not expelled,” Wolff said. “If he is to return to our school, we demand that he receive bias training, discrimination training to understand why what he did was wrong, because clearly by saying ‘I can say whatever I want’ he does not understand the power that the word holds against his Black students.”
They are also seeking a genuine, serious confession, and a genuine apology from the teacher.
While students from BSU spoke to Decaturish, the walkout was not sanctioned by BSU.
Principal Rochelle Lofstrand also spoke to students during the walkout. Decaturish contacted Lofstrand for more information about her comments, but has not received an immediate answer/response to our questions.
Ninth grader Samir Ahmed, an officer in the Black Student Union, said students would like to see change and more action, such as for the teacher to go through training.
“We feel like when we are met with injustice, we must do something to stand up against. We’re here in protest, peacefully,” Ahmed said.
Some students would like to see the teacher be fired. Senior Nadia Ivy said that what happened is unacceptable and students need to be shown that this won’t happen again.
“He has not apologized once for his actions. He has not been held accountable. He is still in that building working at this school,” Senior Nadia Ivy said. “Students are still being harmed. Nothing is being done, and change starts here.”
Ahmed added that firing the teacher alone won’t change the situation.
“We want training, because if you just send the person home, yes, they’re fired, that’s a consequence, but that’s not changing them, so we need them to be put through training,” Ahmed said.
In the newsletter, Fehrman assured the CSD community that immediate action was taken, and she is working with her team to take additional steps to address both incidents at DHS.
“In CSD we believe in and use restorative practices as a tool to restore trust and support healing in our community,” Fehrman said. “When such egregious harm has been done, there is not a singular path to resolution, as there are many layers of work at various levels of our organization to ensure that no further harm is done to our students and staff of color. Supports we have put in place so far include: restorative circles, support for the DHS Equity team, additional training for staff on racial slurs, and additional support and space for students and staff as they process what occurred.”
She added that developing next steps will take some time, as the district is on the cusp of an extended break that will impact how quickly CSD can get the necessary resources in place.
“I am committed to ensuring that all actions taken cause no further harm and that our response leads to deeper awareness, understanding, and actions towards ending racism in our schools and greater community,” Fehrman said. “These two situations cannot and must not be dismissed. As we finalize the next phase of our response, we will share those details with all stakeholders.”
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