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Updated: West staff member says use of n-word was to tell student not to use the term

Updated: West staff member says use of n-word was to tell student not to use the term

Madison West building (copy)

A staff member at West High School is no longer working there after allegedly using a racial slur with students. Two similar incidents occurred at the school last year, with a total of five racial slur incidents in the district in the 2018-19 school year.

A West High School security officer terminated for using the n-word in front of a student says he was telling the student not to call him that word after an altercation.

Marlon Anderson, who has worked in the district for 11 years but was in his third year at West, is working with the union to fight his dismissal, he said Thursday morning.

West principal Karen Boran announced the incident and dismissal in a Wednesday afternoon email to parents, but did not offer specifics of the incident.

“As you know, our expectation when it comes to racial slurs has been very clear. Regardless of context or circumstance, racial slurs are not acceptable in our schools,” Boran said. “It is a standard we will continue to hold for professional conduct, that has been applied consistently and will continue to be applied consistently.”

Boran added, “We have investigated the incident, and the staff member will not return to West.”

Anderson, who is black, wrote in a Facebook post that a student had called him a “b**** a** n****,” and Anderson responded, “don’t call me a n****.” His post received nearly 400 shares and more than 250 comments, all in support of his ability to connect with students.

Last year there were at least five incidents in which a staff member used a racial slur in front of a student, including teachers at West and Jefferson Middle School and substitute teachers at East and West.

The incidents have all occurred amid the district’s push toward Black Excellence, an attempt to close the longstanding achievement gap between black and white students and “care for and meet the social-emotional and academic needs of black students.”

The first incident last year, on Oct. 31, 2018, involved a white teacher intervening in a conversation between two students at Hamilton Middle School, responding to a black student, “How would you like it if I called you a n-----?” That teacher eventually resigned.

The incident created “a sense of urgency” at the school, Hamilton academic and career planning coordinator Tova Sacks told the Cap Times in February. Staff members founded the Educators Working Towards Anti-Racism group to have conversations about race and create a network to support anti-racist teachers.

District administrators told the Cap Times in the spring that the incidents are treated as personnel issues, meaning much of the context remains confidential.

In a statement sent Wednesday to the Cap Times by district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson, interim superintendent Jane Belmore echoed Boran’s language that context does not matter in situations where a racial slur is used.

Strauch-Nelson wrote that she could not comment on any additional details about the incident.

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Scott Girard is the local k-12 education reporter at the Cap Times. A Madison native, he joined the paper in 2019 after working for six years for Unified Newspaper Group. Follow him on Twitter @sgirard9.

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Five times this school year, an MMSD teacher or substitute teacher has used a racial slur in front of a student. The string of incidents has forced the district to grapple with how to have more productive conversations about race and how to heal. Plus, many educators now realize that when it comes to anti-racism efforts, the work is ongoing and never stops.

“Thank you to the 1,000 plus students for allowing your voices to be heard and to all the people from across the globe for reaching out to my family,” Marlon Anderson wrote upon the news. “Thank you MTI, West BSU, my son, Noah Anderson and my colleagues at West High School for your prayers and support. You are amazing people!”