An African American teacher at a high school in the Bronx claims she was fired for using the word "negro" in Spanish class, according to a lawsuit she filed arguing the whole situation was a misunderstanding.
Petrona Smith, 65, was a non-tenured Spanish teacher at P.S. 211 in the Bronx when she was dismissed in March 2012. A seventh-grade student in the class reportedly took offense at the term, believing the word to be a racial slur. It's not clear if Smith directed the term at the student, but whatever the case, he reported the incident to school officials.
Smith maintains that she used the word because she was giving a lesson about colors and "negro" is Spanish for "black."
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"They haven’t even accounted for how absurd it is
for someone who’s black to be using a racial slur to a student," Shaun Reid, Smith's attorney, told the New York Post. "Talk about context! There's a lot of things wrong here."
When she was fired, Smith was also accused of calling her students "failures." But that, too, was a misunderstanding, she said.
Smith had allegedly asked students who had failed a test to move to the back of the room, but says she never called them failures, according to court papers.
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Smith insists she was the one who was called derogatory names
by her students, including "f—ing monkey," and "cockroach."
A spokeswoman for the New York City Law Department said, "We have received the papers and will review them."
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