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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

5/27/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

'Negro' is the Spanish word for 'black;' context is everything

Teachers of young children often perform a thankless job. They work long hours for low pay and are frequently beholden to higher standards than anyone else. More and more, such common dignities as freedom of speech and expression do not apply to them. A case in point is the case of Bronx instructor Petrona Smith, who was reportedly used for using the word "negro" in class. Smith was teaching Spanish, and "negro" is the word for "black." Furthermore, Smith is from the West Indies, and she herself is black.

Duct tape was used in a gag photo posted on Facebook by a popular math teacher. Dismissed over a rather meaningless and obvious joke, the duct tape could now be applied to teachers' freedom of speech and expression instead.

Duct tape was used in a gag photo posted on Facebook by a popular math teacher. Dismissed over a rather meaningless and obvious joke, the duct tape could now be applied to teachers' freedom of speech and expression instead.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/27/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Language, First Amendment, teacher, negro, Spanish, lawsuit, dismissals


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Smith has filed a lawsuit that she was fired from teaching at Bronx PS 211 in March 2012 after a seventh-grader reported that she'd used the "N" word, according to The New York Post.

Smith argues that everyone uses it, when speaking Spanish. She was teaching the Spanish words for different colors, and the color "black" in Spanish is "negro."

Furthermore, she also taught the junior high school students, in a bilingual school, that the Spanish term for black people is "moreno."

This misguided attempt at sensitivity and cultural acknowledgement calls to mind a similar incident when the Akron Public Schools Board of Education voted last January to pursue the firing of Melissa Cairns.

A math teacher at Buchtel Community Learning Center, Cairns allegedly posted a photo on her personal Facebook page which showed less than a dozen of her 16 students with duct tape across their mouths.

The caption underneath read: "Finally found a way to get them to be quiet!!!"

A colleague of Cairns' notified a supervisor of the photo to which she was later dismissed.

The story behind the - ahem, "gag" photo? Cairn, a teacher for 10 years, says she gave a girl a roll of duct tape to fix her binder. The student then cut a piece of tape placed it over her mouth and laughed.

"The other kids in the class thought it was funny also, and they proceeded to pass the tape and scissors around the class. The students, the majority of the class, ended up putting a piece of duct tape across their mouth," Cairns explained. "I would never in a million years do anything to harm students."

The official explanation of Cairns' dismissal was because "She showed a lack of good judgment. Her conduct was unbecoming of a teacher," Akron Public Schools spokesman Mark Williamson said.

The dismissal brought with it the expected protests by Cairns' colleagues. "This is wrong," wrote Lynn Webster. "The Board should take into account what really happened and she was having FUN with her students. Oh...teachers aren't allowed to do that anymore. She should have received a reprimand at most and move on. Shame on the snitch that reported her. Couldn't this have been handled privately instead of running to a supervisor? Now I hope she sues them to get her job back."

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