Muscogee County School Board debates zero-tolerance on racial slurs

MCSB considering "zero tolerance" racial slur policy
Updated: Oct. 16, 2017 at 11:34 PM EDT
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(Source: Jose Zozaya/WTVM)
(Source: Jose Zozaya/WTVM)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  It's an ongoing debate over comments a former teacher in Columbus made to two students at Reese Road Elementary School.

The teacher admitted to using a racial slur in front of at least two young African-American girls. Monday night, the Muscogee County School Board again discussed a 'zero tolerance' policy for that kind of language.

Board member John Thomas, who submitted his proposal to prohibit "communication of racial slurs, either verbal or written, by all district employees," added one sentence to his original document. The intent, he said, was to make sure the board defined what "zero tolerance" means.

"While it's true we have several other policies on the books that have the language 'zero tolerance,'" Thomas said, "they are not specific about the use of racial slurs, for one thing."

The addition, in short, states if, after a review and thorough investigation, a teacher is found to have said a racial slur, that employee is subject to termination.

Before Monday's meeting, Thomas met with fellow board member Kia Chambers, who heads the policy committee, as well as human resources officers and school district attorneys to hash out a compromise.

"We were on opposite ends as far as far as the policy is concerned," Chambers said, "but there is a proposal that I believe is a happy medium."

Chambers said Thomas' amended proposal does not remove employee's due process rights, while also allowing the human resource department to review any policies before deciding on the employee's status.

"It also sends the message clearly," Chambers said, "that racial slurs have no place in the classroom."

This controversy was still on the minds of many community members at the meeting.

At one point, a local community activist was escorted out from the meeting for her comments about the employee at the center of the controversy.

This, despite board-chair Patricia Hugley-Green having warned the audience about a board policy to not entertain a discussion about any particular district employee or case.

The activist then directed her outburst to school district superintendent David Lewis, calling for his resignation over how he's handled this and several investigations.

During the meeting, Chambers asked that all board members review existing policies with school district attorneys to decide which ones will be abolished and which ones may be amended to accommodate Thomas' proposal.

"I think there may be some board members who have concerns that we do have policies on the books already that address the situation, Thomas said. "I don't believe that and that's why I proposed this policy. So, we'll see how it turns out."

The board now has 30 days to vote on this proposal.

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