A Bronx teacher says her language lesson was lost in translation when she was fired for calling a student "Negro" — though she claims she was simply using the Spanish word for the color "black" at the time, according to a new lawsuit.
The non-tenured junior high instructor, Petrona Smith, 65, was booted from the bilingual PS 211 in March 2012 after a seventh-grader reported the alleged insult.
Smith, who is black and a native of the West Indies, has been unemployed since her ouster.
"They haven't even accounted for how absurd it is for someone who's black to be using a racial slur to a student," said Shaun Reid, Smith's attorney. "Talk about context! There's a lot of things wrong here."
The instructor took a hiatus from teaching special education in 2005 to learn Spanish in South America, because she was passionate about learning the language in a cultural context, Reid said.
Smith was also accused of calling her students "failures."
But in court papers she claims that second insult was also a misinterpretation.
Smith had allegedly asked students who had failed a test to move to the back of the room, but says she never called them failures.
She denied calling the student a "Negro," and explained to investigators that she was teaching a lesson about how to say different colors in Spanish and said the word "negro," which is Spanish for the color black. She told her students that it was not a derogatory term and that the Spanish word for a black person was "moreno."
She added that she'd been verbally abused by her charges, including being called a "f---ing monkey," a "cockroach" and a "n---r," but had never stooped to their level.
A 2011 investigation substantiated the student's undated claims based on accounts from four seventh-grade witnesses, even though the student's own parents said he'd lied about the event.
A spokeswoman for the city Law Department said, "We have received the papers and will review them."
"They haven't even accounted for how absurd it is for someone who's black to be using a racial slur to a student,"
Is she implying that a racial isn't racist when she says it because she is black? That is exactly the kind of mentality that bothers me. I'm glad they fired her.
Edited: fixed sentence
every time i see something like this it makes me laugh, only because here calling someone ''negro'' (= like if you call someone ''you, black'') is actually a friendly and nice way of addressing someone SPECIALLY black people, i'm aware of the differences i just find it funny ^^
I do not think she should have been fired for it. There should have been a bigger investigation. Plus, do we really need to fire teachers when they are already in high demand?
high demand for teachers is no reason to treat people better.
but in this case just to fire someone is really stupid-it was just one word and said once.This is too little to lose a job.This is like some hitlerian leftist nightmare.
Let's assume she is working lot with latins ,living in a mexican neighbourhood where the word negroe is often used than the word negro could have "slipped" into her language(habbit) therefore she should get another chance.Especially is she is not living for a long time in the usa and is not used to certain standards and habbits.
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That's crazy when black people often call each other by the n word as well. Negro doesn't sound anywhere near as bad. Talk about irony, as a black person said it too
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