Fired For Using Word ‘Negro:' Petrona Smith, 65, Bronx Teacher Suing School After Spanish Lesson Firing

Teacher
A former Bronx school teacher claims she was fired after using the word "negro" in Spanish language lesson (not pictured). Above: A teacher speaks to Spanish students during a German language class at an academy in Madrid in 2012. Reuters

A black Spanish teacher at a bilingual school in New York claims she was fired recently after using the word “negro.” Sixty-five-year-old Petrona Smith claims it was her use of the word during a Spanish lesson that caused her to be dismissed from her teaching position at P.S. 211 in New York City's Bronx this past March.

Smith is now suing her former employers for the firing for what she claims resulted from teaching a Spanish language lesson about colors, the New York Post reported Thursday. It was her use of the word "negro," which was formerly used to refer to a person of black ancestry in English and is used for the color “black” in Spanish, that caused the controversy after one of her students, a seventh-grader, reported the incident.

The teacher claims in the lawsuit that she was verbally assaulted by students following the word’s classroom use, Smith alleging she was referred to as a “f---ing monkey,” a “cockroach” and a “n----r.”

“They haven’t even accounted for how absurd it is for someone who’s black to be using a racial slur to a student,” Smith’s attorney in the lawsuit, Shaun Reid, said. “Talk about context! There’s a lot of things wrong here,” he said.

The student’s report also claims that the West Indies native referred to her students as “failures,” but Smith claims it was a mistranslation, stating she had asked pupils who had failed a recent test to move to the back of the classroom.

Allegedly, the parents of the unidentified student who reported the event stated they believe the educator is innocent.

P.S. 211 has yet to respond to the claims stated in the lawsuit.

Other teachers involved in recent unusual school firings range from Florida High School teacher Olivia Sprauer, who was let go after posting scantily clad modeling photos on Facebook, to Ohio junior high school educator Melissa Cairns, who allegedly duct-taped students in an effort to make them "quiet."

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