A Washington elementary school principal is on leave as the district investigates a complaint that she repeatedly used the N-word to explain its meaning, the Kitsap Sun reports.
Poulsbo Elementary School Principal Claudia Alves is on “leave of absence while we investigate a situation that occurred recently,” according to a letter sent home to parents by Superintendent Patty Page.
“We are working diligently to have an acting principal in place as soon as possible, and will notify you as soon a[s]the person has been identified,” she added.
Shawna Smith, mother of a fifth-grader, said students in her son’s class were uncomfortable with the word “Negro” when rehearsing for a play on Martin Luther King. The teacher tried to explain the historical context of the word and asked Alves for assistance.
Many of the children still were not comfortable with using the word, according to Smith, who is white and is married to Matthew Smith, who is black.
Her son and a classmate refused to be in the play. When he acted up during a rehearsal, Smith’s son was sent to the principal’s office where Alves once again tried to explain the difference between the words.
When the student said he was still uncomfortable with the word “Negro,” Alves told him it was not the same at the N-word, only she used the actual word, according to Smith.
Smith complained to the district on Jan. 15. In subsequent phone calls between Alves and Smith and later her husband, the principal used the N-word again.
Page said it is not acceptable for a district employee to use the N-word even if it is to explain its meaning. Alves was placed on leave on Jan. 21.
“I did use that word, and that word is upsetting. I thought in the context of what we were talking about, it was alright,” Alves told the North Kitsap Herald. She said while what has been considered appropriate has changed over time, the N-word is never appropriate “no matter the period of time.”
On the NK Education Facebook group, Smith wrote she and her husband have no intention of suing the district over the incident. She said she does not want Alves to be fired and prefers that she and others go through cultural awareness training.
Sources: North Kitsap Herald, Kitsap Sun