Public council admits it ‘has a lot of work to do’ after high school teacher used N-word at school

The Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) is in the midst of an investigation after one of its secondary school teachers used the N-word twice at school.

A teacher at Kennedy Collegiate Institute in Windsor, Ont., first said the word Nov. 9 in a class with students in attendance, according to the board. These students were playing a song that referenced the racial slur, which the teacher – who the board says is a white woman – turned off.

« [She] told the students she didn’t want to hear the word. Unfortunately, she said the word out loud,” said Josh Canty, Superintendent of Education – Student Success, Alternative Education and Equity.

The second instance of the same teacher repeating this happened less than a week later, on November 15. The students asked for a ‘restorative circle’ with the teacher to better understand what happened and why she said it, » Canty told CBC News.

« She tried to explain what happened, how it happened and unfortunately she repeated the word, » Canty said.

Josh Canty is Superintendent of Education – Student Success, Alternative Education and Equity at the Greater Essex County District School Board. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

The students had Friday off for a day of professional staff activities. Staff were briefed on a new directive that was planned prior to the Kennedy incident. The directive strictly prohibits the use of the N-word. Prior to that, this was handled on a case-by-case basis, Canty added.

« The timing is just unfortunate that we couldn’t get it out sooner and maybe the Kennedy incident might not have happened, » Canty said.

Knowing that we said it at school was not necessarily shocking. It was disappointing.– Leslie McCurdy

As president of the Black Council of Windsor-Essex, Leslie McCurdy said the council’s new directive must go beyond a rule inside school walls.

« You could say don’t say the word at school, but unless you explain to people why that word is so hateful, they’ll just walk off the school grounds and use it anyway. We have to educate people, » McCurdy said. .

Canty admits the council has « a lot of work to do » to address anti-black racism. Some of the work is already underway with the Dismantling Anti-Black Racism strategy, which began in September. It’s a five-year project.

Leslie McCurdy is part of a Greater Essex County District School Board task force tackling anti-black racism within the board. (Jason Viau/CBC)

McCurdy is part of a working group that reports to the strategy dealing specifically with the use of the N-word. Her role is to help shape the policy that ultimately goes to the implementation committee and the school board.

« Knowing that it was said at school was not necessarily shocking. It was disappointing, but what is more disappointing is the fact that it was not dealt with immediately by the administration of the school and the administration of the school board as a whole. » McCurdy said.

Following the incident, a number of resources entered the school to support affected staff and students.

« We just tried to give all the love and support we could to the students and staff who were hurt by the incident, » Canty said.

The public school board would not say specifically how it is handling the situation as it is a personnel issue and the investigation is ongoing.

« When we have a situation so egregious that that mean, hateful word is used, then it’s anything until fired, » Canty said.

From McCurdy’s perspective, she’s looking for the teacher to apologize to the students at the school and « maybe some time » for education about the harmful impact of saying that racial slur.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to stories of success within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(Radio Canada)


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