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Fired for word: 'Negro' in Spanish class

Fired for word 'negro'? A Bronx teacher has filed a lawsuit claiming she was fired for using the word 'negro' in class. 'Negro' is the Spanish word for the color black.

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What goes on the black board can come back to bite you, if you're a teacher. Petrona Smith wrote "negro" on the board, teaching her Bronx students the word for the color "black" in Spanish. She was fired.

REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

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One of the first lessons one learns in English class is that context is everything. The same holds true in Spanish.

Take the case of Petrona Smith. She says in a lawsuit that she was fired from teaching at Bronx PS 211 in March 2012 after a seventh-grader reported that she'd used the "N" word, according to The New York Post.

'Negro.'

Smith doesn't deny using the word. But she argues that everyone uses it, when speaking Spanish. She was teaching the Spanish words for different colors, and the color "black" in Spanish is "negro."  She also taught the junior high school students, in this bilingual school, that the Spanish term for black people is "moreno." And by the way, Smith, who is from the West Indies, is black.

Context is everything.

Smith's lawsuit brings to mind a case in Ohio earlier this year.

The Akron Public Schools Board of Education voted in January to pursue the firing of Melissa Cairns. She was a math teacher at Buchtel Community Learning Center.

The school district said that Ms. Cairns posted a photo on her personal Facebook page which showed 8 or 9 out of her 16 students with duct tape across their mouths. The caption read: "Finally found a way to get them to be quiet!!!" The district says a colleague of Cairns' notified a supervisor of the photo.

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