Malachi Gillis and his mom, Jennifer Gillis
CBS5

Teachers are normally lauded when they defend their students, but in Phoenix-area elementary school teacher Pam Aister's case, she was given the boot after she backed up a 9-year-old who was allegedly being tormented and called racist names by some peers, the New York Daily News reports.

Fourth-grader Malachi Gillis was called a n—ger and other epithets by a group of boys last spring, and the 25-year teaching veteran stepped in to defend him. However, one parent complained about her methods, and the administration at Four Peaks Elementary School in Fountain Hills, Ariz., subsequently fired her, saying that she was too harsh on the group of bullies. On Monday Fountain Hills Unified School District officials voted 4-1 to uphold the school's decision.

Advertisement

" 'You belong to a zoo,' 'stupid head,' 'monkey,' 'crackhead,' " little Malachi recalled his bullies saying to taunt him. Malachi has since switched schools to escape the abuse.

Aister confronted the group at some point, the Daily News notes, after she'd heard enough. "He is not alone. When you pick on him, you pick on me," Aister told the group, according to CBS5. "It is not 5-to-1 anymore. It is 5-to-2." She also told one of the bullies to "shut up" while throwing out her own taunts about another's "ugly face" and allegedly threatening the boys.

Of Aister's firing, Jennifer Gillis, Malachi's mother, told CBS5, "That makes me beyond mad because why is she being fired for something she is supposed to do?

Advertisement

"She's supposed to be standing up for the students," the outraged mother added. "They didn't like it, so it turned into her threatening the kids because she stood up for this one black child in her class."

According to the Daily News, a Change.org petition has been launched with the goal of having Aister reinstated at the school. The petition has attracted more than 3,000 signatures so far.

Read more at the New York Daily News and CBS5.