In October of last year, Bowsher High School educator Crystal Franks told a white female and black male couple, “You two have jungle fever.” Those comments got the 39-year-old Toledo, Ohio teacher into some trouble and she wound up having to serve a one-day suspension without pay, as WTVG 13 News reports.
The Toledo Blade writes that in a disciplinary hearing, Ms. Franks notes that after making her comment, someone else told her that it was racial, and, “she replied that it wasn’t, and that theyapparently had not seen the 1991 Spike Lee film Jungle Fever.” That seems to be an odd defense to make, considering Jungle Fever, “examines the repercussions of an interracial affair upon two very distinct communities.”
Ms. Franks, who has taught within the Toledo Public Schools (TPS) system since 1999, wasn’t very convincing. WTVG notes that her hearing officer, Denis Onyia, noted, “Jungle fever is a term used to refer to the various tropical diseases, such as Malaria. But it has also been adopted as a racist term used to describe the attraction between those in interracial relationships.” Onyia also said that Ms. Franks’ claims that what she said was, "taken out of context and had no derogatory meaning is neither plausible nor believable."
Neither the Blade nor WTVG were able to reach Franks for comment. TPS assistant superintendent Brian Murphy told WTVG, "This is a very sensitive issue…Behavior such as this will not be tolerated and it goes against the values of the district.” One of her former students, Miquan Richardson, thinks the punishment was unfair, telling the station, “I don't think it was that big of a problem. I think she has her rights of freedom of speech. She was just joking around."
The Blade reports that Ms. Franks served the suspension on January 24. Schools were closed due to bad weather, so she didn’t miss class time but did lose a day’s wages.