School security guard fired for repeating racial slur will get job back, union says

More nuance needed in school's zero-tolerance racism policy, says returning Marlon Anderson

Mihir Zaveri
Tuesday 22 October 2019 15:09 BST
Black security guard fired after asking student not to use racial slur

A Wisconsin school security assistant will be re-hired after he was terminated last week for repeating a racist slur while telling a student not to use it, union officials said, following days of public outcry and protests by students and teachers.

The security assistant, Marlon Anderson, was fired after he said the slur during an exchange with a student on 9 October at West High School in Madison. The student directed the slur at Mr Anderson and Mr Anderson repeated it while trying to explain why the slur was offensive. Both Mr Anderson and the student are black.

On Monday afternoon, officials at the school district called the union representing Mr Anderson, Madison Teachers Inc, to say his firing would be rescinded and that he would be placed on paid leave, said Doug Keillor, executive director of the union. Mr Keillor said that the district is working on a transition plan on “how best to reintroduce” Mr Anderson to the school.

The school district’s reversal came on the same day that Gloria Reyes, the school board president of the Madison Metropolitan School District, released a statement saying that Mr Anderson’s termination should be rescinded.

Mr Anderson said Monday that he was happy to hear the news.

“I’m excited to get back to work,” Mr Anderson said. “But the work isn’t done, because there’s still a lot that needs to be done in our district. This happened to me, it will happen again if we don’t change some of these policies.”

In response to questions about Mr Anderson’s rehiring and Ms Reyes’ statement, a school district spokeswoman shared a letter Monday that the interim superintendent, Jane Belmore, sent to school district staff.

“I am prepared to take appropriate steps in the current situation, and I will begin to work with our administrative team to ensure that we mitigate any harm that was caused and begin the healing process and give the board time to review our practice,” Ms Belmore said in the letter.

Ms Belmore could not immediately be reached for comment Monday evening.

The school district cited a zero-tolerance policy on the use of racial slurs by school staff when it fired Mr Anderson. Mr Anderson said there should be more nuance to the policy.

“One of the many problems with the zero-tolerance policy, it takes away a teaching moment,” Mr Anderson said. “If there’s an opportunity to have a teaching moment at a school, you’ve got to take it.”

The district is now reviewing its policies.

“In our commitment to tackle anti-racism, we have created universal practices using the non-discrimination policy to protect those who are most impacted by racial slurs,” Ms Reyes said in the statement Monday. “This is an opportunity for the board to review the policies and practices that are currently being used and dive deep into the issues of racism in our schools.”

The New York Times

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