Chicago Teacher Suspended for Using ‘N-Word’ in Class Sues; Says It Was a ‘Teachable Moment’

Philip Caulfield, NY Daily News, February 20, 2012

A white teacher says Chicago public school officials and his black principal violated his civil rights when they suspended him for using the N-word in front of a classroom full of black sixth graders, according to a lawsuit.

Calling the incident a “teachable moment,” Lincoln Brown, 48, said he used the word in class at Murray Language Academy last October after he caught two girls passing a note with a rap lyric containing the slur, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The social studies teacher said he was discussing the use of the word in the context of movies, music and books, including the novel “Huckleberry Finn,” when the principal, Gregory Mason, happened to walk in.

“I asked them, ‘What would you feel if I used that word?’” Brown said. “I used the full word, but I didn’t address it to the students. I was very careful about that.”

Brown said Mason didn’t seem to have a problem with the discussion and stayed in the classroom for about 10 minutes.

But two weeks later, Brown was told he would be suspended without pay for “using verbally abusive language to or in front of students” and “cruel, immoral, negligent or criminal conduct,” the Sun-Times reported.

Brown called the charges bogus.

“It’s so sad—if we can’t discuss these issues, we’ll never be able to resolve them,” he told the newspaper.


The lawsuit, filed on Thursday, accuses Mason, Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and the Chicago Board of Education of violating Brown’s First and Fifth Amendment rights.


Lincoln Brown


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