‘Not a white people thing’ | Students call for policy after teacher uses N-word

Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 3:11 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - On Wednesday night, parents, students, school leaders and The Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights in Decatur held a community forum after a teacher used a racial slur in a classroom among students at Decatur High School.

The students said there needs to be a policy in place to ensure teachers are held accountable for using racial slurs in the classroom.

Hundreds of students held a walkout last week after students said their physics teacher, Mr. Chestnut, was suspended from class for one day without pay for saying the n-word three times in front of students.

Students said the principal apologized to the school on behalf of Mr. Chestnut but the district has missed many key steps in addressing this situation head-on and swiftly.

“It hasn’t really been handled how it should of. As soon as the action happened he wasn’t disciplined he wasn’t punished,” Decatur High School student Kadence High said.

Decatur High School students like, Kadence High, said they’re not done protesting against racism in the district.

“Two students were saying it back and forth to each other, two Black students, and he was just like... oh you can’t say that, while he was saying the word. Then another student says ‘what did you say?’ The student pulls out the phone and Mr. Chestnut says it again two more times, ‘you can’t say n-word, you can’t say n-word,’ while he was being filmed,” Decatur High School student Lindsey Davis said.

Black students like, Lindsey Davis, said they know it’s hard for many people to understand why black people use the n-word among themselves.

“There’s some Black people that don’t like to say it, there’s some people that find it offensive, and there is some people using it and reapplying it. It has a negative history but they are using it in a positive light to build their community. That’s fine, many people have their relationship with this word. My thing is, this is not a white people thing,” Davis said.

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Kadence High also agreed, “Black people have reclaimed the word and if they want to use the word among themselves and their friends they should be able to.”

Kadence High and Lindsey Davis are both members of the Black Student Union at Decatur High School.

Many of the students who attended the forum said they didn’t think they would have to teach their teacher about the use of the n-word and as an educator, Mr. Chestnut should be educated enough to know why it is wrong for a white man to use the n-word.

“He’s a grown man he knows what he said was wrong, he’s educated enough to know what he said was wrong. He went to middle school, he went to high school, he went to college,” Another Decatur High School Student said.

Now students and community members want Decatur High School to implement a policy that outlines consequences for teachers that use the n-word on campus and in front of students.

“He needs to be held accountable,” Kadence High said.

Many of the students who attended said they should not have to be the ones acting like adults and addressing this situation and they should be able to focus on their education.

Students said they shouldn’t have to feel unsafe going to Mr. Chestnut’s class, but by the district making light of these situations and staying quiet about it, students don’t feel supported.

Several teachers and staff members also attended the meeting and talked about the way it was handled behind the scenes among staff.

“When it happened they didn’t tell teachers and we had to find out from students. This was something that they were very much trying to sweep under the rug,” a staff member who did not wish to be identified said.

The principal apologized to the school and parents on behalf of Mr. Chestnut in a letter sent home to parents and said discrimination won’t be tolerated.

However, students said Mr. Chestnut justified his actions instead of apologizing.

“I got the opportunity to think about how and why that got past the filter and it’s easy for me to wonder why growing up in this country when I did starting in the past that i absorbed some racists nonsense that’s still plumping around in my head,” Mr. Chestnut said.

For a look at Mr. Chestnut’s full statement shared with students after the incident click here.