White Teacher Sues for Right to Say N-Word

Lincoln Brown says that allowing it to be uttered during lessons could lead to teachable moments.

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whiteteachernword
Lincoln Brown, right (ABC 7)

A Chicago teacher has filed a federal lawsuit against his school district after he was suspended for saying the n-word in a class lesson, according to the Chicago Sun Times. The teacher, Lincoln Brown, who is white, alleges that the black principal at his school and the district violated his civil rights.

Brown, who has taught in predominantly black schools for 21 years, used the n-word in his class on Oct. 4 after a student passed a note to another student with the n-word written on it from a rap song. He then went on to use the book Huckleberry Finn to show how much language can hurt. But according to Brown, as he said the n-word, the principal walked in.

The principal, George Mason, then charged the teacher with "using verbally abusive language to or in front of students" as well as "cruel, immoral, negligent or criminal conduct or communication to a student, that causes psychological or physical harm."

He was then suspended by Mason and appealed, but he was rejected.

"It's so sad. If we can't discuss these issues, we'll never be able to resolve them," Brown said Thursday to the Chicago Sun-Times as he prepared to begin his suspension from the Hyde Park school just a few blocks from President Barack Obama's Kenwood home. He is suing Mason, CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and the Board of Education, saying that his First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated after he attempted "to teach his class ... an important lesson in vocabulary, civility and race relations."

He said he would never use such a hurtful word with malice, considering his background. "It's ridiculous to believe that sixth-graders aren’t exposed to this language, not only in music but in their everyday lives," he told the Sun Times.

While we don't doubt Brown's teaching ability or his dedication after teaching in predominantly black schools for 20 years, the n-word is a touchy subject for any teacher of any race to use in a school, especially if you are white. He should have talked first with an administrator about what he wanted to do.

Read more at the Chicago Sun-Times.

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