A white history and African-American studies teacher has been fired for using the N-word multiple times in his high school classes, which consist mostly of black students, the Kansas City Star reported.
What are the details?
Students and alumni from University Academy — a pre-K-12 college-prep charter school in Kansas City — raised concerns about the teacher, Johnny Wolfe, the Star said.
University Academy consists of about 1,100 students, the paper said, 96% of whom are students of color — and most of them are black.
Students at the upper school took videos and voice recordings while confronting Wolfe about his use of the slur, which were later posted by KC Defender, a black nonprofit community media platform, the Star reported.
In one video, the teacher can be heard saying, “Just like African-Americans call themselves n*****. So, there will maybe be people who don’t like that, but it was said in an educational context, and it was said for the purpose of talking about empowerment. So, you can like it, not like it, be upset about it all you like, but ultimately this is a ridiculous conversation.”
In another video, the teacher can be heard saying, “I appreciate the point of view. I actually said in the last class, I probably shouldn’t have said it. That said … it was said in an educational context. We cannot police other people’s speech, people. We can’t do it.”
After a student tells the teacher, “So basically you don’t feel like you were in the wrong to say it,” the teacher replies, “I just said I probably shouldn’t have said it based upon the educational level of a ninth-grader, but I do feel like … you as seniors should be able to understand the context and be able to put it in perspective.”
What happened next?
The Star said that University Academy officials noted in a letter to families that it was “a completely unacceptable and abhorrent incident” that’s “contrary to the very mission for which the school was created.”
Wolfe was placed on administrative leave, the paper said, adding that students, parents, and community members then held a town hall to address racism at the school and call for action.
The Star said the group demanded Wolfe’s termination, the formation of a diversity and inclusion task force, the hiring of more diverse staff members, and the implementation of more mandatory diversity training.
In its letter, school officials said current staff member demographics break down as 59% white, 39% black, 1% Asian, and 1% Hispanic, the paper said.
A Change.org petition to remove the teacher said students were “subjected to this intellectual violence” and were “bravely expressing their feelings of discomfort about his use of the racial slur, as well as its impact on their educational experience. In response, Mr. Wolfe continued to repeat the racial slur, referencing pop culture as a form of justification. Instead of taking responsibility and accountability, this man gaslit young black students and belittled their intelligence. This is unacceptable behavior of ANY educator,” the Star reported the petition said.
School officials said an independent investigator was hired along with a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant, the paper noted.
The school’s board of directors indicated — based upon the investigation and feedback from students, staff, parents, and the community — that several next steps would be taken, including firing the teacher and ensuring he won’t return to University Academy, the Star reported.
Superintendent Rebecca Gudde said she will immediately develop an improvement plan for the upper school, which will “address the workplace culture so that it is emotionally intelligent, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive,” the paper said.
The superintendent also will develop a plan to better recruit and retain black teachers, review the school’s mental health services for impacted students, and begin a search for a permanent counselor or social worker, the Star said.
Parents outraged teacher at University Academy used racial slur during discussion