Chicago boy called a slaveRecently, my son, a second grade gifted student at a Chicago Public School, was called a “slave” by his teacher when he hit another boy in the arm because a girl told him to.

“That makes you a slave. You did what somebody else told you to do so you’re a slave” were her exact words to my seven-year old. In a situation where a child behaved in a way that made him “a follower,” he somehow became a “slave.”

When he got home, my son passionately recounted the story to me, saying:

“I’m not a slave, I’m a human being and I deserve to be respected like one. She might as well have just called me a nigger. It’s like back in the day during segregation when the white people would say whatever they wanted to black people and call them names and hurt their feelings. That’s what she did to me, she hurt my feelings.”

And I was enraged. How dare she? My son’s teacher is also African American, but that brings no comfort. It does nothing to negate the fact that she demeaned my son in front of his peers, degraded him or made him question, even if only for a moment, if the fact that he is black is a horrible thing. In an instant, much of the hard work that has been put into making sure he remained positive about who he is was diminished.

My child is a brilliant young man who doesn’t take many things at face value. He challenges popular opinions and theories, and thinks outside of the box. He is also very much aware of what being a young black boy means, and what people of color have overcome in this country. He acknowledges the fact that, because of this, he may face some challenges in life. Therefore, it is my constant struggle to keep that knowledge, those ideals, our history, and his sense of self away from negatively affecting his development and growth.

When I spoke to the offending teacher about her words to my son or the impact it had on hm, she felt no regret. She actually told me, “Someone has to instill some fear in these children and keep them out of jail,” as if she was doing him a favor. I was flabbergasted! For an educator to think that the only way our children will be productive members of society is by scaring them in this way is ridiculous.

I send my son to school to be educated so he can be successful. I do not send him to school to be harmed or degraded in a public forum, or for him to be hurt by a poorly-chosen words that cut him down. We have a responsibility as parents and educators to build children up, keep them informed, cultivate conscious and responsible individuals, empower and arm them with knowledge. We should never say things to break them down, dampen their spirits, or be offensive to them, even in the spirit of saving them from themselves.

What I learned from this experience is that the system does not necessarily work for children and their parents. It’s not truly set up for our children to be supported and encouraged while they are away from us. I’m disheartened, but not discouraged, and as long as there is breath in my body I will fight for my child and be his biggest advocate.

We are to be reminded though, that every child doesn’t have an advocate, or a voice as loud as my own, but they deserve the exact same respect. It is when we take that into account that we realize this system is flawed, needs to be reviewed, and change needs to come quickly. Indeed, “It takes a village to raise a child” but when the village chief breaks them down, we’re left to build them back up.

My son is not a “slave” for making a mistake in hitting another child. He recognizes his wrongdoing and apologized to both the other boy and his teacher. But this experience left a bigger scar on him than he deserved.


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  • Natalie B.

    I sincerely hope that you spoke to the prinicipal and other administration officials and filed a complaint. Your child is not the first child to be subjected to her inappropriate behavior and won’t be the last. Make sure that school board members, who are elected in Chicago, are aware of the situation and that state officials are aware as well. Continue to check in on the treatment of your child, to monitor any retribution from this teacher, and make sure that EVERY PARENT YOU KNOW knows about the incident and takes measures to ensure that their child doesn’t end up in her classroom.

  • Betty Boop

    I use to teach for CPS. You will be amazed how low class some teachers are. It was been told to us (teachers) time and time again that in order to get respect from the students that we had to get on their level. Im not able to it. Therefore, I was grateful to find employment in another district. I worked on the West Side in a heavily Mexican gang area.

  • Tonton Michel

    GTFOH, this kid assaulted another child, no one sends there kid to school to get bullied or come back home with bruises. And the author is worried about some words said to the kid? I tell you where this is going to go, this little boy now think he has carte blanche to do what he want cause mama is going to come running and hold his hand thus leading to other problems down the line with this kid. That boy needed to be corrected and in public so that he and everyone else knows that this type of behavior is unacceptable. You hear about these kids all the time acting fool in the class room knowing they can get away with it cause their parent will find any type of discipline shown to the child is an attack on them. To hell with that, let that be my kid he hit the brat in training would of been mailed back home. That teacher called it right the first time.

    • unknown

      She was wrong she didn’t have to call him anything she should have call home to tell parents you put child in his shoes and see if its ok you need to shut your mouth he not getting any special treatment either this little boy does nothing wrong he very quiet it call peer pressure .and I say this because he’s my nephew.And I know him

    • Tonton Michel

      Give hoot if he is you know him or not, the parent of the kid who got hit I am sure could care less as well, nobody wants their kid terrorized by your kinfolk, it would have served him right if they pressed charges against him that way you can spend time with him in juvie. Shut your own trap.

    • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

      She can reprimand the child without calling him a “slave”. Is her diction that limited?

    • LA

      Why are you so convinced that this boy is on his way to jail? He’s in second grade. I bit a girl in second grade once and I’m in med school now. I think he’ll be ok. He’s still learning the nuances of boundaries and respect; for all you know he has a crush on the girl and wants to make her happy. Who knows. He’s seven!

      The author doesn’t mention anything about how she disciplined him once he was home, for that wasn’t the point. She was reacting to a grown woman calling a little boy a slave. Which regardless of what happened in that classroom was inappropriate. I’m sure you wouldn’t take too kindly to your boss calling you a field n****r for turning in an assignment late.

    • ConcernedCitizen

      The Author of this article is an amazing mother who disciplines her children to the fullest. Her kids are very polite! Punching a kid once in the arm is NOT bullying! IF he walked in every day and started trouble with this kid then yes he would be a bully, but no adult should ever belittle a kid because of their actions. There is a right way and a wrong way to discipline children and the teacher was completely out of line and could make things worse. If a child has teachers putting him down and other children in his ear he is only going to become worse. He needs support…now if they would have gave him detention or even in school suspension…understandable, but what kind of discipline are words?! You are obviously just as ignorant as this teacher.

    • I totally agree. If her child is as articulate and brilliant as the author is making him out to be, he should know better than to be hitting in the first place. Even though I don’t care for the teacher’s type of reprimand, I would have explain to her that my husband and I work DILIGENTLY to make sure that our child is receiving his proper life lessons in the home. And the next time there is a discipline issue, please notify us and we will rectify the problem without name calling.

    • LemonNLime

      @ LA – “I bit a girl in second grade once and I’m in med school now.”

      That made me LOL really hard.

    • Unknown

      @Tonton, it is the type of ignorance you so foolishly spew that the author is working against. Yes, this SEVEN year old child made a CHILDISH mistake and hit another child in the arm, the child also apologized for and was disciplined for that action. No one here was terrorized other than the children that had to be subjected to an EDUCATOR lacking the skills to properly turn a common childhood occurrence into a teachable moment. It’s adults like you, full of ignorance and hateful feelings for themselves and others, that negatively affect children these days and have them grow into adults with the same issues.

      The fact that this parent listens to her sons feelings, and teaches him to stand up for what they believe is right is commendable. More parents SHOULD support their children and “hold their hands”, so they may become caring, upstanding, considerate citizens; not one who would threaten to physically harm a child by “mailing them back” to their families as you just did. If you effectively discipline early on, you won’t have to worry about many problems later, I feel bad for any small child ever left in your care.

      Adults have the power to choose their words and there was another way for this teacher to correct this child, even if she did have to do so publicly, without demeaning him and breaking his spirit. Maybe you’re so upset because someone broke yours early on and nobody fought for you. I feel bad for a person like you, who’s so small minded that they cant think past the negative and discover a SENSIBLE solution to a minor problem.

    • Tonton Michel

      Oh yeah, I am ignorant alright just like the right ignorant kid who will dusted that boy up for putting his hands on them will be.

    • Brandon

      where did you attend grade school? i didn’t think that children hitting each other was that uncommon in an elementary school setting. i would think an educator would be better prepared to handle such a common expression of emotion amongst grade school children. I’m not sure if you are a parent but if you daughter was misbehaving in class and her teacher said “you are nothing but a little bitch”, would that be ok? if you came to your child rescue then would you be in the right? The point I’m trying to make is that this teacher made the choice to use the most inflammatory term possible to discipline this child. we do we choose to break when we can just as easily build…… especially when dealing with our own youth. lets really look at what this teacher said…… a “slave” is forced to do something against their usually with the threat of violence or harm….. i see very little connection between this incident and slavery. would we be having this conversation if the teacher had said, “you aren’t being a leader…. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Marcus Garvey were leaders. if you want to be a great, respected man like them than you need to change your behavior”? while i feel it is very common i still do not feel like the authors son was right for putting his hands on the other child, no matter what the reason was. if we start labeling it assault each time children hit one another “juvie” will be over ran classroom and playground offenders. when did we become so sensitive as a people that hitting someone in the arm could be labeled “bullying”. nowhere one the story did it say this was a ongoing behavior… for all any of us reading the article know it was an isolated incident. id love for any of the poster on here to tell me that as a child they never put their hands on or verbally assaulted a classmate for any reason.

    • JerseyGirl


      I work with children. I can say, from experience, it is very difficult to reprimand children because you have some parents who think you dont have a right to yell or call out their child’s behavior. You have others who feel that you are “picking” on their child. When fathers are around, it is completely DIFFERENT. I love when a father comes to meet with me regarding poor behavior because you know that it will be corrected that night. When it’s only mom, most likely, NO. Although, I I dont agree with the teacher’s use of slavery, I have to ask why her son hit another child in the first place. If he is so articulate, why didnt he use his words?

    • Tonton Michel

      ” I’m sure you wouldn’t take too kindly to your boss calling you a field n****r for turning in an assignment late.”

      One this kid was not called a field n****r, and I didnt assault anyone in the work place so that was weak. And if you bit some one as a kid your chomping butt needed to be corrected for it as well.

  • Jane

    The teacher is the adult. Kids hit each other and say hurtful things. The adult is suppose to have the sense to diffuse these situations.

    My sister disciplines her kids by telling them to say something nice about the other person. If the kids (8-10yrs) are arguing and calling each other names. She makes them stop and each has to say what they like about the other. It is funny to watch…”You make me laugh…I like your shoes…..” haahahaa…

  • LemonNLime

    While I think the teacher could have and should have handle the situation differently she has a point in her explanation.

    Your son hit another boy because a girl told him too. No one forced him to hit this other kid. So your son can understand that he deserves respect and understands there is a history of people like him being denied respect BUT he feels like it is OK to assault another kid and deny him respect? That makes no sense at all and I hope as a parent you pointed out how hypocritical he was in his thinking. If you want respect you have to give respect.

    Like the teacher said, these actions and this kind of thinking are what will have him headed straight to lockup where his mommy can’t come and bail him out. Just as you don’t want your child being disrespected and terrorized at school, other parents don’t want their kids being disrespected and terrorized at school.

    • Whatever