COMMENTARY | At a board of education meeting Thursday night, outraged parents and members of the local chapter of the NAACP demanded action be taken against math teacher Kathleen Pyles for allegedly calling a student "black boy" when she couldn't remember his name, Eyewitness News 3 reports. The Waterbury, Conn., teacher has been suspended with pay pending an investigation.
The incident occurred in sometime in May, when, Pyles, a middle school teacher, purportedly called the child by the wrong name. When he told her she'd mistaken him for someone else, she allegedly said "How about black boy? Go sit down, black boy," The Daily Mail reports.
The remark only came to the attention of school officials when another child told his mother about it, and his mother then reported it. As NBC Connecticut reports, the school board responded to the community's concerns Thursday, implementing sensitivity training for faculty and staff.
So the good news is we have a parent willing to speak for all the children in the classroom, not just her child, and bring the event to the attention of the school. We have a community concerned enough to attend a school board meeting and an administration and board willing to listen and take action.
All good things.
But the bad news is we have an educator who supposedly thought it was fine to call one of the children in her class "black boy." If the quote is accurate, not once but twice.
There is no telling how this teacher's attitude might have affected the education of the kids. There is also no telling what she really thinks, if she found it acceptable to call a little kid "black boy."
The phrase "black boy" is far more loaded with meaning than its mere eight letters would suggest. It is a term laden with hierarchy, a name meant to denote position. It's meant to put someone in his "place."The Waterbury school district didn't brush away the comment and it also didn't step on Pyles' right to a fair investigation. By engaging the community, the district =fulfilled the role of an educational institution, remaining levelheaded, processing reactions and acting appropriately given the investigation is still pending.
But it is sad we need to keep having the same conversation. And I beseech you, possible educators of America, if you cannot look at each of your students without prior judgment, with attaching qualities based on the characteristics you see, find another line of work.
Our children deserve better. At least that school board seems to know it.