If you’re a Spanish teacher, you may want to be careful when teaching colors to your students.
Petrona Smith, 65,was fired from New York City’s PS 211 in March 2012 after a seventh-grader reported the alleged insult. According to Smith’s lawsuit, she was using the word “negro” for the color black, since she was teaching a lesson on colors. She is now suing the city.
“They haven’t even accounted for how absurd it is for someone who’s black to be using a racial slur to a student,” said Shaun Reid, Smith’s attorney. “Talk about context! There’s a lot of things wrong here.”
On top of using the word “negro”, Smith was also accused of calling her students “failures.”
But in court papers she claims that second insult was also a misinterpretation. Smith allegedly asked students who failed a test to move to the back of the room, but says she didn’t use call them failures. Smith also explained to investigators that the Spanish word for a black person was “moreno”.
She added that she’d been verbally abused by her charges, including being called a “f—ing monkey,” a “cockroach” and a “n—r,” but had never stooped to their level.
According to the New York Post, a 2011 investigation substantiated the student’s undated claims based on accounts from four seventh-grade witnesses, even though the student’s own parents said he’d lied about the event.
A spokeswoman for the city Law Department said, “We have received the papers and will review them.”