Student, mom push for change after London, Ont. High school teacher uses N-word in class

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A high school student in London, Ont., And her mother call for change after a teacher utters the N word in a grade 8 English class during a discussion about Agatha Christie’s novel And then there was none.

The incident happened on October 27 when the teacher at St. Kateri Catholic School opened up about the murder mystery, which was published in 1939.

Amiya Harrison, 13, said the teacher was introducing the book and began by warning them that he was using language that is no longer acceptable today. Harrison identifies as Black and is of Caribbean descent.

“[The teacher] said later in the book that there was going to be a word and she said the N word, but she said the real word, “Amiya said.” I was upset that she said that word casually, so I say anything because I was in shock. “

Amiya also said other students were visibly upset when the word was spoken.

Her mother, Amber Williams, complained to the school and raised her concerns with St. Kateri’s principal, Tara Lopes.

“My daughter is home and missing school right now because she’s so uncomfortable about it,” Williams said.

Lopes addressed the incident in an email to parents last week in what she said was an attempt to provide “context and clarification.”

CBC decided not to use the teacher’s name because she admitted that she should not have used the word, and it is uncertain whether she will be disciplined.

In his note, Lopes admitted that some of the language in the novel was “offensive and racist,” and said the teacher’s intention was “to have a frank discussion with his students about the impact of the words. and how language changes over time “.

“It’s a horrible word”

The principal’s letter goes on to quote the teacher: “It’s a horrible word, but unfortunately when this book was written this word was used a lot in society. Thank goodness we have learned and grown, and recognize that this word is no longer acceptable. . “

Ana Paula Fernandes, superintendent of the London District Catholic School Board, said although the teacher didn’t break any specific rules, she shouldn’t have spoken the word.

“‘[The teacher] immediately realized that when she referred to the word, that she should not have pronounced the word as it appears in the novel, ”said Fernandes, who did not mean if the teacher will be disciplined. “In society, we know that what may have been acceptable at one point may not be.”

Fernandes said the school had made its own decision to stop using the book for its novel study and that its place in the Catholic council’s curriculum was under review.

Williams said an in-class education assistant told students not to bring up the discussion of the novel outside of the classroom or to mention it to their parents.

Fernandes said she was not aware of such an order.

“In all of our schools, we welcome the voice of our students as well as the voice of our parents and the community.”

The novel was originally published with the title 10 Small [N-word plural]. The title refers to a rhyming song for children in which the characters die one by one with each new verse. The structure of the rhyme is imitated in the novel, in which the characters who arrive on an isolated island are murdered one by one.

The title of the novel was changed in the 1960s to 10 little Indians to reflect another version of the children’s rhyme. This title – deemed offensive to indigenous peoples – was changed in the 1980s to reflect the last line of the rhyme: “And then there was none”.


For more stories about the experiences of black Canadians – from anti-black racism to success stories within the black community – check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(SRC)


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