Robocall Mispronounces Student's Name As Racial Slur

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An upstate New York school district has apologized to a student's family after a series of automated phone calls that mispronounced the girl's name as a racial slur -- but the mom said the issue still has not been fixed.

"Representatives from the district have talked with the family and apologized profusely, as we should," Rochester City School District Deputy Superintendent of Administration Lawrence Bo Wright told WHAM-TV. "We can't say enough how sorry we are."

It all started in mid-October, when Nicomi Stewart received a robocall from Edison Career and Technology High School, stating, "Your daughter, N****r, has missed period one…" after the girl was absent for one day.

"I was like, 'Wow, am I really hearing you correctly, did the machine just say this?'" Stewart told WHAM-TV. "It was unbelievable. I was shocked. I was disgusted. I was upset. … My child's name is Nicarri. Her name should not be what it is in the system."

Blackboard Connect, the company contracted to send the automated notifications to parents, reportedly experienced a glitch that is "very similar to technologies that you use that are centered around GPS, where sometimes the system will have mispronounced a name," explained Wright.

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"It's disrespectful and it's degrading," said Stewart. "I don't even use that word in my house, so why is my child being called this?" she continued, pointing out that she received similar automated calls last year that correctly pronounced her daughter’s name.

Wright said that the district removed Nicarri's name from the database and will directly send her family a phone call or email if they need to get in touch -- but Stewart said that as of Oct. 31, they are still receiving the automated messages with the same slur.

"They're making me look like I'm slightly bananas and lying about this, when they're saying they rectified something they haven't rectified yet," Stewart said, adding that she just wants her daughter's name "to be put in the system correctly."

Blackboard Connect reps told HuffPost in a statement that the company uses automated text to speech (TTS) software that "automatically generates pronunciations based on typed text."

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"In this case it appears that the system mispronounced the recipient’s child’s name, sounding like a racial slur," the company added. "Blackboard takes this issue very seriously and we are working with the school district and our TTS vendor to correct the problem. We sincerely apologize for this very unfortunate technical issue."

Sources: WHAM-TV (2), HuffPost / Featured Image: Pixabay / Embedded Images: ajari/FlickrVictorgrigas/Wikimedia Commons

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