THE BLOG

Math Teacher Called N-Word; Death Threats Ensue

04/06/2015 04:53 pm ET | Updated Jun 05, 2015

2015-04-05-1428269846-5904224-carolyn.jpg

"F*** Miss. Gardener [sic] N***** 8," read the message on the girls' bathroom stall of Amherst High School on the date of March 20, 2014. The African American teacher referenced, a math instructor by the name of Carolyn Gardner, would not be informed about the discovery of the message, until two hours after being discovered by school faculty including the principal of the school, Mark Jackson, and the Math Department Head, Jane Mudie. The incident, one of a slew of incidents directed against Gardner, presumably by students of the high school, was followed by another incident on November 9, 20014, wherein Gardner had her name tag defaced with the word, "Roots," in reference to the 1977 mini-series about slavery in the United States. Prior to this, the school was shut down, on January 27th 2014, due to a gun threat by a white senior by the name of Dylan Akalis. Investigations into the matter, would reveal that Akalis had used racial epithets to describe black students at the school.

In response to these incidents, Jackson would distribute a memo to the press stating, "Our immediate charge is to rally around Carolyn (Gardner). She is ours. She needs to know this now more than ever." Jackson would later go on to state, "The School [had] an obligation to everyone who works here...to keep them safe and make sure no harm comes to them. We didn't do so well on that front with Mrs. Gardner. We owe her a debt and we really need to rally around her." A few months later on May 14, 2014 another letter this time addressed to Principal Jackson read, "We are bringing a gun to school...Carolyn Gardner." One again the issue would not be brought to Gardner attention until hours later. Jackson would later characterize the note to the Massachusetts Recorder as a, "threat to the school, not the teacher." This quote, is representative of the self-imposed denial of Principal Mark Jackson, and the district he represents; it is representative of the denial that has allowed the racial tensions within Amherst to fester and burst open upon Gardner, soaking her not only with the disdain of students, but also with the indifference of her colleagues and peers.

The toll of the incidents have caused Gardner to develop post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). Gardner, the sole financial provider to a heavily autistic son, has since been placed on an involuntary un-paid medical leave. Massachusetts antidiscrimination statute, Mass. Gen. L. Ch. 151B, prohibits Massachusetts employers from retaliating against employees for complaining about or opposing discrimination or harassment in the workplace. The school's actions and inaction are currently being reviewed by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. Amherst-Pelham Regional School District refused to comment on the proceedings. Gardner is represented by Sasson Turnbull Ryan & Hoose.