Lincoln Brown is a white Chicago teacher with over twenty years of experience teaching in predominately black schools who was suspended from Murray Language Academy for five days without pay for using the n-word in front of his sixth-grade class.

While Brown claims that the word’s use was a “teachable moment,” and meant to open up a dialogue about the pitfalls of racism, the school principal (who happened to walk in just as Brown was saying the word) considered it “using verbally abusive language to or in front of students” and “cruel, immoral, negligent, or criminal conduct or communication to a student, that causes psychological or physical harm.” Brown has now filed a federal lawsuit against the school district, alleging that this suspension violates his first and fifth amendment rights.

Brown explains that he caught a student passing a note with a rap lyric that refers to another student using the n-word. He took this as an opportunity to get students thinking about how influential words and stereotypes can be in society, and did so through the lens of Huckleberry Finn. The principal walked in during the discussion, listened for long enough that Brown assumed his attention was that of support, and left to get the ball rolling on Brown’s suspension. He says that the accusation that he used the word inappropriately or had any racist intent behind its use is damaging to his reputation as an educator and “cannot be a part of who people think [he is].”

The School District claims that his suit is meritless, but Brown has garnered the support of students and colleagues and plans to both overturn the suspension and allow for a realistic approach to the use of the n-word in class. Watch Brown explain his position in this video fro ABC.

What do you think? Did this principal jump the gun or should Brown have left the n-word alone?

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