Government Schools

Superintendent: West Hartford Teacher Who Used Racial Slur No Longer with the District

Sedgwick Middle School. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

West Hartford Superintendent of Schools Paul Vicinus said Tuesday that the teacher who was accused of using a racial slurring a classroom has resigned.

By Ronni Newton

Superintendent of Schools Paul Vicinus emailed a letter to the West Hartford Public Schools community Tuesday afternoon stating that the teacher who has been under investigation for use of a racial slur in a Sedgwick Middle School classroom during the first week of school has resigned.

Vicinus said the district launched an immediate investigation into the teacher’s alleged conduct, and did so “properly and thoroughly so that the rights of all students and staff members involved are fully respected.” The community was informed that an investigation was taking place and Vicinus said in his initial communication to families in September that the district “acted immediately in removing the teacher from the classroom,” but did not provide any further details .

“Given the laws governing confidentiality with respect to such matters, we were not able to share updates while this work was underway,” Vicinus said in his message to the community on Tuesday. “I recognize and appreciate the frustration this may have caused. Having now completed our investigation, I can share with you that the teacher has resigned and will have no further role in our schools.”

Vicinus did not provide any further details regarding the conclusion of the investigation.

The incident occurred on Friday, Sept.1 – the third day of school.

Che’La’Mora Hardy, parent of a Sedgwick eighth-grader, who is Black, previously told We-Ha.com that she contacted the administration after her son came home from school that Friday and told her about the incident. Hardy said her son told her that his math teacher was going over class rules with a PowerPoint, including the use of inappropriate language.

Hardy said her son told her that he asked the teacher for more information about what she meant. “He asked, ‘What words are those?’” Hardy said. The teacher, Hardy said, responded to her son: “You know what I’m talking about. You guys use this term all the time.” Her son told her the teacher used the “N-word” twice as an example, once with the “-er” ending and once with the “-a” ending.

“I recognize the shock of this news, how it stirred emotions and tested the foundation of trust in our schools, our teachers, and our leaders,” Vicinus wrote in Tuesday’s message to the community. “West Hartford Public Schools prides itself on being an equity-focused and inclusive community that values diversity. There is no circumstance where voicing a slur in front of students will ever be tolerated, as such language is antithetical to our values, our mission, and our collective work to create welcoming spaces that foster a sense of belonging.”

Che’La’Mora Hardy (in yellow shirt), who said her son was the target of a racial slur at Sedgwick Middle School, was among the silent protestors outside West Hartford Town Hall prior to the Sept. 19 Board of Education meeting. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

While the matter was under investigation, members of the community held a silent protest outside Town Hall and then attended the West Hartford Board of Education meeting on Sept. 19, calling for the district to take strong action and stating that the teacher involved should not be permitted to return to the classroom.

Lee Thomas-Morton, grandmother of the student involved in the incident, and others who addressed the Board were looking for answers about the next step and the status of the teacher.

Ivelisse Correa of BLM 860 said West Hartford taxpayers should not be funding a teacher who acts this way. “I don’t think that is someone who should be working with students of color,” she said at the meeting, adding that she hopes the incident is taken seriously.

In Tuesday’s letter, Vicinus thanked the community for being patient “and also for the significant outpouring of support for the work we continue to do related to our equity vision and our responsibility to provide for the emotional well-being of all children. We remain unwavering in our commitment to create safe and inclusive spaces for all students.”

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