IL Teacher Should Be Allowed Nowhere Near a Classroom

A substitute teacher in Illinois repeatedly referred to a group of black girls as “niggers” during a class last week after the students told her that they were not African-Americans because they were from Jamaica. The school says they won’t invite the teacher back to that particular school.

Officials at an Illinois school said this week that a substitute teacher would not be allowed to work in the school after she allegedly called two students the N-word because they objected to being called African-American.

Eighth graders Mea Thompson and Zaria Daniel told WMAQ that they were working in a Social Studies group with two other students at Jay Stream Middle School last Wednesday when the substitute teacher referred to them as “African-American.”

“All four of us that were sitting there got offended because none of us are from Africa,” Thompson recalled. I’m Jamaican. So we said, ‘Can you please not call us that?’”

“She continued to call us that and said, ‘It’s the politically correct term.’ Then she said, ‘Well, back then you guys would be considered the N-word.”

Thompson and Daniel said they were almost moved to tears by the teacher’s words.

“We were so shocked and we were like, ‘What? Excuse me?’” Thompson replied. “She was like, ‘Well, back then that’s what African-Americans were called.’”

The students said that the teacher continued to use the N-word throughout the 80-minute class period. They said that she also referred to them as slaves…

The school district confirmed to WMAQ on Tuesday that the substitute teacher had been interviewed, and that she had corroborated the students’ version of events.

That’s someone who should not be allowed anywhere near any classroom, at that school or any other.

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  • dhall


  • matty1

    I’m lost as to what context would require a teacher to refer to the race of her students anyway. What was the lesson, ‘how to spot a racist?

  • Modusoperandi

    matty1 “I’m lost as to what context would require a teacher to refer to the race of her students anyway.”

    It was math class. She was teaching division.

  • moarscienceplz

    Ooh! Good one, Modus!

  • Loqi

    Why was she teaching math? She obviously never passed calculus or she would understand integration.

  • stuartsmith

    Don’t worry, I’m sure her teaching days are numbered. With moves like that, she’ll be making way more as a Fox News commentator in no time!

  • edmundog

    As a former sub, I can honestly say I’m amazed at some of the incompetence I’ve seen from my fellows. I’m terrified of leaving my classroom in the hands of one of them, but I’ve got a conference next week…

  • kimberlyherbert

    It sounds like the school was responsive and the girls or their parents were able to quickly report it. I hope it was reported when the students got to their next class and told the teachers what happened in Social Studies.

    I know in our sub system it is possible for a principal to block a sub from accepting a job at our school, while she is in the process of reporting a problem to the administrator in charge of the sub system. Then the administrator can remove the sub from the entire system for our district. There is no way of preventing a bad sub from moving on to the next district down the road – unless criminal charges can be filed.

  • billdaniels

    The complete reverse of this happened in my RC parish in the 70s. The parish ran an elementary school and a high school. In the early 70s the archdiocese finally got around to integrating the high schools they controlled. The people in my all-white, Eastern European parish exploded. The pastor then reassured everyone by saying the two girls weren’t really Negros because they were from Jamaica. I was the only one around who enjoyed the irony,

  • scienceavenger

    This probably didn’t occur to those of you who aren’t recovering racists like myself, but this will likely make the rounds in racist circles, because from that perspective, and a bit of creative license, it’s fucking hilarious. If you still don’t see it, consider this classic:

    A woman from Dallas sits next to a woman from Boston on a plane.

    “Where are ya’ll from?”

    “Where I’m from we don’t end sentences with a preposition”

    “Oh. Well, where are ya’ll from…bitch.”

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not proud of that perspective. It’s a relic of my past, something to be conscious of and fight against. Pretty much everyone in America has at least a little of this in them, depending on where you were raised.* We who were raised in the South in an environment of racist jokes, terminology (“n@gg@r-rigging”) and attitudes more so. And it’s not something you can wipe out all at once through sheer will. It’s stamping out a lifetime of habit, one moment at a time. I tell family just make sure you are less racist than your parents, and hope your kids are less racist than you. Then its just a matter of time.

    Anyway, forgive the indulgence, thought it might have value for some. Anyway, don’t be surprised if you see this again portrayed very differently. And yeah, fuck this “teacher” and get her out of classrooms forever. She had a great teaching moment where she could have spread enlightenment through a discussion of why we use the term “African American” instead of other terms, and instead she drowned it in ignorance.


    *Don’t believe me? Go watch “Animal House” again. If its been a few years, you might be surprised at how much really racist shit you used to think was normal and funny.

  • podkayne

    So obviously calling the kids “niggers” wS unacceptable. That said, what SHOULD she have called t hem, if racial distinction was appropriate in context?

  • Katie Anderson

    podkayne @11,

    Assuming that bringing up their race was appropriate in context, the simplest and politest way for her to know what to call them would have been just asking them what they preferred.

  • Suido

    @podkayne #11

    That said, what SHOULD she have called t hem, if racial distinction was appropriate in context?

    That’s a hella big “if”. Why would any teacher want to deliberately make assumptions about a group of students based on their skin colour? It would reinforce racial stereotypes and the idea that any non-whites are a homogeneous group, rather than people with diverse cultural backgrounds and ancestry.

    Would you prefer that teachers should consider light-brown skinned mixed-race kids brought up in the US the same as kids who are newly migrated from Sudan and have the darkest skin colour of any human, or kids who have dark skin colour and grew up in the UK, from families that have lived their for generations?

    Would it be appropriate to assume a group of Eastern-European kids are Russian? What if they were Polish, or Hungarian, etc?

    It’s really not that difficult. Teachers use the students’ names. If the students are working in groups, and need group identifiers, use group names.

  • lorn

    I refuse to excise words from my vocabulary. I will limit their use.

    I once wrote a lengthy paper on the institution of slavery narrowly focused upon the culture of field/house niggers and submitted it to a history professor, who happened to be black, and the head of the African Studies. He called me in to discuss the use of the word. I got an A- on the paper because of a sloppy footnote.

    Nigger is as good a word as any other, no worse than many others. If you can’t think about it you are hobbled in your ability to talk, sometimes even think, about the history of slavery, the concept and institution embodied by the differentiation between field and house niggers and other antebellum institutions. The word is the only direct and effective way to embody the contempt within the complex institution and how both sides were played off each other and their standing within the southern culture. Neither the word ‘slave’ nor ‘black’ work very well or convey the context because there were fee black men and a wide variation of standing among blacks sired or accepted by the master’s family.

    That said the word is needlessly inflammatory if applied to any individual and should, in a good and just word, never be applied uncategorically to any individual or outside the historic fact of an antebellum world.