A New York City teacher was allegedly fired for using the word "negro" to describe a student in her Spanish class, which she claims was part of a lesson in translation. Now she is suing because she hasn't been able to find another job since she was sacked.
Petrona Smith, 65, non-tenured, junior high school teacher, was let go from P.S. 211 in the Bronx in March 2012, according to the New York Post. She was allegedly fired after a pupil reported her for calling a student "negro" during a Spanish class.
However, the Post reported that Smith, a black woman from the West Indies, said she only used the word in reference to the color black. She then reportedly explained to her students that it is not a derogatory term and that the Spanish word for a black person is “moreno.”
“They haven’t even accounted for how absurd it is for someone who’s black to be using a racial slur to a student,” Shaun Reid, Smith’s attorney, told the Post. “Talk about context! There’s a lot of things wrong here.”
Smith also was accused of calling her students "failures," a claim she denies.
A spokesperson from P.S. 211 could not be immediately reached for comment. A message has been left at the office of Shaun Reid for further comment.
The issue of racism surrounding the firing of other teachers has made headlines before. Last February, a Minneapolis teacher was put on paid leave after he was accused of discriminating against five black students in his class, according to WCCO. He was accused of making them sit in the back of the room because "it is easier for him to teach rich white folks than poor black people," and telling them things like, “you will never amount to anything” and “you only have one parent.”
The following month a teacher was fired from a Washington, D.C., charter school for writing violent and racist math problems for students to solve, WUSA reported. One such problem involved a tiger catching African Americans and Native Americans, and cooking them in ovens.