Staff Member Uses Racial Slur at High School

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MTT News's picture
Michelle Phillips

MIDDLETON–A Middleton High School staff member was put on paid leave last week after being accused of using a racial slur not once, but twice, in front of students. The incident, which came just days before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, may have surprised some in the district, but not Percy Brown, Director of Equity & Student Achievement in the Middleton Cross Plains Area School District (MCPASD), who noted incidents have been occurring in the neighboring Madison Metropolitan School District in the last few months. 

“Furthermore, our national climate has given people permission to become racially and culturally insensitive. Unfortunately, it can also occur with people who are well intended and justify their actions by claiming the context makes it appropriate. As a black man and not speaking from my role in MCPASD, to explicitly state the ‘N’ word with ‘ER’ at the end should never be used in any context by a white American and especially in an educational setting with children. My hope is that this is an expectation for school districts across our greater community, state and nation,” Brown stated.

Perry Hibner, MCPASD Communications Director and superintendent, George Mavroulis agree that racial slurs in the schools are not something that will be tolerated in the district. The employee who made the comments is currently under investigation.

“Personnel issues go through a thorough investigation process and disciplinary measures are taken based on the offense, including and up to termination.” Mavroulis said. “We have a harassment policy that, in part, addresses an offensive learning environment, which includes ‘verbal harassment–including epithets, kidding, derogatory comments, slurs or ethnic jokes.’”

Brown said he is hopeful that the social climate will change, he pointed out that the United States has a long history of racism, dating back to the slave trade, which goes back 400 years in the US. “Race is a socially constructed caste system that America has used to build social and economic structures based solely on the color of one's skin. Racism is structural, institutional, individual and according to Critical Race Theorists, permanent in American society,” Brown said, and added that the “N” word was designed to subjugate and dehumanize black Americans for more than three centuries.”

Hibner said the district strives to make school welcoming and provide opportunities and success for all students. He included that he can not remember another incident like this in the district since he started seven years ago but was unsure if there were any before that time. 

Brown said within the district there has been a shift toward a more equitable environment, and Mavroulis stated that equity and diversity training had been offered for the last five years. 

“We have established culturally responsive clubs that provide safety and a place for students to vent their frustrations when they experience racial insults or other situations that may negatively impact their school day. Those clubs are also exposed to ongoing enrichment opportunities and we have nearly 60 high school students of color who are mentoring students of color at our three most diverse elementary schools,” Brown explained.

Mavroulis included, “We have modified our screening and selection process with questions that directly address equity perspectives.”

There is clearly much work to be done and Brown said, “Education and love is the best tool to combat ignorance.”

Brown said he lives in “a dual world” because he is a black man. “There are times where my role and the system in which I work conflicts with my consciousness as a black man. And having to juggle between the two is exhausting and difficult for many of white brothers and sisters to understand. And while it may be exhausting, I have to continue to fight the good fight because if it's not me, then who.”

Hibner said interviews with staff members and students are currently being conducted and that the investigation should be concluded by the end of the week. 

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