MADISON, Wis. -- A black security guard at a Wisconsin high school who was fired after he says he repeated a racial slur while telling a student who had called him that word not to use it has filed a grievance seeking his job back.
The Madison School District has a policy forbidding employees from saying racial slurs. But, Marlon Anderson, 48, says he was just trying to defend himself after a disruptive student unleashed a number of obscenities on him, including that slur.
West High Principal Karen Boran sent an email to families on Wednesday asaying that racial slurs are not acceptable in schools, regardless of context or circumstance, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
But Anderson told the State Journal, "We're fighting this," and the Madison teachers' union filed a grievance with the district on his behalf.
"I just don't understand getting fired for trying to defend yourself," said Anderson, who worked for the district for 11 years. "As a black man, I have a right not to be called that word."
Anderson said he was responding to a call on Oct. 9 about a disruptive male student who was being escorted by an assistant principal at West High. Anderson said the student pushed the principal's hand off of himself, and the situation escalated, with the student, who is also black, calling Anderson obscenities including the slur.
Anderson said he told the student multiple times "do not call me that" and "do not call me that word," and that Anderson repeated the slur during the confrontation while telling the teen not to use it.
During his time at East and West high schools, Anderson said he's been called the slur by students "many times," and that it has resulted in "restorative conversations" in which he explains the history, context and meaning of the slur.
Boran said the zero-tolerance approach on the use of racial slurs "has been applied consistently and will continue to be applied consistently."
"I also want to ask for your partnership as we work to make our school climate the very best it can be for all of our students and our staff," she said.
In a statement, interim Superintendent Jane Belmore said the expectation of staff to never use a racial slur "has been shared several times through communication and professional development."
Last school year, there were at least seven cases in which a Madison School District staff member used a racial slur in front of students. All of those employees were either fired or resigned.
It's not known whether the student faces disciplinary action.
Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj