Richmond County school Superintendent Frank Roberson issued a written reprimand Tuesday to a T.W. Josey Comprehensive High School English/language arts teacher who distributed two handouts with racial slurs to students in February.
The fliers, using a slur commonly known as the N-word, were apparently intended to “shame these students by indicating their behavior was an affront to the memories and brave examples of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks,” Roberson’s letter stated.
One handout showed a photo of King being arrested and stated “MLK was a (slur) if … he wasted his time!”
There is space on the bottom for the student to sign and date the flier to acknowledge, “I have this letter because my actions, my life and my ways show that Martin Luther King wasted his time! Thanks for nothing, My (slur)!”
The other flier describes Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on an Alabama bus in 1955, along with her mug shot after her arrest. It states: “She sat down with a made up mind … so I wouldn’t have to live with the name (slur).”
Roberson stated in the reprimand that the manner in which the teacher, Lori Myles, chose to correct students who misbehave was astonishing, unprofessional, uncalled for and inappropriate. Myles, a teacher who has 26 years of experience and is black, said she was trying to get students to understand the hate and depth of the word and how it should never be used, especially today.
“Our students’ daily culture is to use the word (racial slur) for friends, as a regular, everyday word,” Miles said. “I still feel like it was a good lesson. I have students now correcting others and correcting themselves. I’ve heard guys say, ‘Call me anything, but don’t call me that.’ ”
Myles did not sign the letter of reprimand and will now appeal the discipline to the school board, she said.
Though she acknowledged she did not seek approval to use the fliers in the classroom, Myles said students are exposed to the same slur in the high school curriculum. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, an optional part of the 11th-grade curriculum in Richmond County, uses the word 219 times.
Myles said she did not give the flier to any particular student but displayed it on an overhead projector for the class to see.
According to students interviewed by school officials, the letter was handed out to a select few.
“The students that received the letter were having disciplinary problems in the class,” according to the notes written by “the discipline team” at Josey. “The students were given the letter at the beginning of class and were asked to sign it. The students that received the letter were upset and thought that the letter wasn’t warranted.”
In a letter of advisement from Principal Ronald Wiggins to Myles Feb. 26, he said it does not matter if the flier’s intent was for discipline or classroom work.
“It does not matter the purpose, the documents are outside the state curriculum, does not comply with board policy for outside sources and the wording is inappropriate for young people whom you are attempting to build an educational community,” Wiggins wrote.
Roberson wrote that he assumed Myles’ behavior was “without racial animus” but was degrading and has “no place in our schools or classrooms.”
Myles said her point was to show that the word has no place in casual conversation, textbooks or anywhere else.
“It was a lesson,” Myles said. “If we think (the slur) is acceptable at any time, then we are doing just as the flier says. We are desecrating the memory.”