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Epithet-Hurling Teacher's Suit Tossed

Epithet-Hurling Teacher's Suit Tossed

A racial epithet led to some tense moments at a 2007 high school basketball game and, subsequently, to a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. The incident involved Fatima Parker, an African-American special education teacher with Albemarle County Public Schools, who used the "n-word" in reference to an African-American referee with whose calls she was loudly disagreeing. The following day, Parker alleged, she was told by school administrators that the referee and the NAACP filed complaints about her language, after which she was suspended for five days with pay, received a reprimand and suspension notice in her employee file, was referred to the district's Employee Assistance Program, was prohibited from attending any school sporting events for the rest of the school year and was required to write a letter of apology to the referee. After all that, Parker discovered that neither the referee nor the NAACP had actually filed a complaint about the incident; she therefore filed a grievance over the disciplinary action, which was denied. She then filed suit, arguing that the use of the "n-word" between African-Americans is culturally acceptable and that her use of the word at the basketball game did not constitute obscene or abusive language. She contended, therefore, that the school board and administrators' conclusion that she used abusive and obscene language was tinged with racial bias. She also argued that the severity of the punishment was not proportional to the severity of the offense. However, the court dismissed the case, saying that neither Parker's procedural nor her substantive due-process rights had been violated.

Color Analysis: In a year of political change, advocacy groups see the same old racial disparities on the football sidelines.

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