A Filipina teacher in San Bernardino, Calif., was put on administrative leave after one of her students accused her of using the “N” word in class.
Bernadette Yuson, a math teacher at Cajon High School, was rearranging the seats in the classroom on Sept. 3, when an African American student asked why she was moving all the black students to new assignments.
High school senior LaRue Bell, 17, reportedly asked his teacher, “How come you’re moving all the black people around?”
“Because I want to move all the(n-word)—–,” was Yuson’s reply, according to Bell’s report.
When he left to tell the school administration, Yuson allegedly replied, “Go ahead and tell them; I’ve got a lawyer and I pay him every month.”
According to Bell’s family, the school administration initially ignored the complaint, and Bell was even advised by another staff member to ignore racist teachers and focus on his grades. He left class and his mother, Vanessa Murray, was notified.
The following day, school officials called in Bell to further investigate the complaint. They also talked to other students who were in the class to verify his story.
“She doesn’t mean any harm,” the administrator reportedly told Murray. “I’ll get her to apologize.”
Bell was given a new class schedule with a different math teacher. His mother, however, was not quite satisfied.
“I want her to be fired because she’s just getting away with it. I want something done because I don’t feel this is right,” Murray said.
San Bernardino District spokesperson Linda Bardere said that the complaint would be further addressed and administrative measures would be taken against Yuson’s actions.
“We can assure the public that the District took the student’s complaint seriously and at no time did any District employee minimize the gravity of the teacher’s words,” she said in a statement. “We launched a fair and deliberate investigation regarding the matter and we took quick and decisive disciplinary action once all of the facts were in.”
Yuson allegedly violated San Bernardino’s school board policy 4200b, which states: “all certified employees shall not use abusive or obscene language in the presence of students and/or parents. This shall include derogatory, racial or ethnic remarks.”
The Filipina math teacher declined to comment, and Bell said that she still has not apologized or acknowledged any wrongdoing. Murray as well as other parents and community leaders want her fired, and will not rest until the issue is resolved.
“We are deeply concerned about the incident that occurred at Cajon High School,” said Gwen Rodgers, president of the Young Women’s Empowerment Foundation, at a Tuesday night press conference with the African American Education Collaborative. “We believe there are systemic failures that require a deeper understanding and investigation.”
At the press conference, Rodgers called on the school district to permanently remove Yuson, discipline Cajon staff that did not take Bell’s objection seriously, and “ensure proper implementation” of existing policies regarding future complaints.
Superintendent Dale Marsden also apologized on behalf of the controversy, which has sparked fiery online debate.
“I want to personally apologize to our community, our parents, our partners, and most importantly to our students who have been affected by this,” he said. “I want you to know that we are personally committed to taking every measure necessary to understand the details of the matter, and ensure that our students continue to learn in a kind and caring environment.”
(With reports from Philstar.com and the San Bernardino County Sun)