A school teacher has been placed on paid leave after an allegation that she made a racist remark to a black student. School authorities in Waterbury are investigating the allegation that the teacher referred to her student as "black boy" in class.
The Huffington Post reports that the teacher, Kathleen Pyles, maths instructor at North End Middle School in Waterbury, Conn., called the boy the wrong name and when the student pointed out the mistake, she said: "How about black boy? Go sit down, black boy."
The alleged incident happened in May, but was unreported until another child told his mother about it. WFSB reports that officials at the North End Middle School said the parent filed complaint after learning of the incident.
The allegation has caused outrage in the African-American community in Waterbury.
Parents speaking on Thursday, during a Board of Education meeting in Waterbury, agreed that action needs to be taken against the teacher. A parent, Helen Taylor, said: "It's not acceptable. I think they should let her go, we can't accept this from anybody."
Daily Mail reports reports that a member of the Connecticut African American Emancipation Challenge and former president of Waterbury NAACP Jimmie Griffin, said: "I couldn't believe it, it was shocking to hear a professional like that, say something like that in a room full of students. I couldn't believe it. They need to take some real serious action - this is no joke, this is a very racist comment."
Other parents expressed shock and outrage, and called for Pyles's dismissal, The Huffington Post reports. Many of the parents argued that if Pyles had forgotten the name of her student, there were other more polite ways she could have addressed him.
An eighth grader at the school, Wendaliz Hernandez, however, said, "She doesn't seem like a racist. She was nice." Hernandez said she was surprised to hear about the alleged racial slur and admitted she would be offended if anyone referred to her by the color of her skin. She said: "I don't know what she said to him, but just don't be racist."
Waterbury Public Schools COO Paul F. Guoidone, said: "We wish to assure parents that we take this allegation very seriously. We do not tolerate or condone the claimed behavior from our staff, and if the allegation of making racist remarks is proven true, the district will take appropriate action."
School officials say Pyles would remain on paid administrative leave until investigations are concluded. School officials say she had only been at the school a year.
Daily Mail reports that board members say they are introducing sensitivity training for teachers and other staff. Board member Karen Harvey, said: "It doesn't set a good example for the kids. Students will also be given training so they know when to make a complaint."
Superintendent Kathleen Oulette, said: "I think there’s definitely a need within the Waterbury school system and it’s something we’re addressing immediately."
NBC reports that the Waterbury Teachers Association issued a statement, saying they are committed to ensuring every student has "a qualified, caring, and committed teacher." President of the teacher's union Kevin Egan, said in a statement: "All of us here at the Waterbury Teacher's Association are deeply committed to the success of every child."
The Huffington Post reports that the alleged incident is one of several racially-insensitive behaviors by school teachers in the U.S. The website reports the case of a Virginia high school English teacher, who asked the only black student in the class to read a poem in a "blacker" manner. According to Jordan Shumate, a ninth-grader at George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, Va., he was reading aloud Langston Hughes "Ballad of the Landlord," when the teacher Marylin Bart, interrupted and said: "Blacker, Jordan, c'mon, blacker. I thought you were black."
There have also been reports of schools using slavery as example in maths word problems, some of which include references to violence and abuse. Digital Journal reports one of the questions said: "If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?"