Class Lesson on Civil Rights Flies Off the Rails as White Students Take the Opportunity to Spew the N-Word: ‘They Took It for a Joke’

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A middle school in Scottsdale, Ariz., is facing criticism after several white students were recorded saying the n-word during a class lesson on civil rights

Officials at Mountainside Middle School sent home an apology this week after the lesson didn’t go as planned, Phoenix station ABC 15 reported. According to a statement, the class lecture focused on a 1957 incident involving an African-American and a white child, and was intended to teach students why the slur is “racist and offensive.”

Mountainside Middle School
Students at Mountainside Middle School were recorded saying the n-word multiple times as part of a history lesson on civil rights. (ABC 15 / video screenshot)

The lesson featured quotes from primary sources, some of which used the n-word.

“The teacher spent a great deal of time setting up this lesson so students were prepared for the actual quotes used in this incident,” the school principal wrote in a letter home to parents. “We recognize the use of the factual quotes was not the way to teach this lesson. The quotes with the ‘n’ word made a lot of our students feel uncomfortable and offended.”

“We apologize for putting students in the position of using these factual quotes with the ‘n’ word,” it continued. “Please know and believe Mountainside doesn’t condone any racist and offensive language on campus.”

Both the principal and teacher also apologized to students in person.

During the lesson, some white students began using the slur multiple times, an incident that was caught on video and circulated among other students at the school.

“Everybody saw it,” said eighth-grader Essence Waters, who was in a different class. “They took it for a joke. They thought it was OK for them to say it, like the one opportunity that they had, and all around my school, I hear people throwing out the word like it is OK — and it’s not.”

Waters told ABC 15 her white classmates routinely use the n-word on social media or when singing rap songs.

Mountainside’s principal has promised to make changes to the lesson, which parents say went terribly wrong.

“Did they really effectively learn the lesson, or did they just make a mockery of something?” said Eshekiah Herron, Essence’s mom.

Herron argued that teaching students about the n-word isn’t the issue, but said they must learn and understand the context of the slur. She added that Black students must also be taken into consideration when planning lessons about racism.

“This is a place of learning, not a place where kids should feel humiliated or hurt after a lesson has been taught,” she told the news station.

Essence said the incident left her feeling hurt, especially after she was forced to explain the issue to a classmate.

“One of my friends was like, ‘why are you making such a big deal out of this?’” she recalled. “I was like, ‘How do you not understand that this is a problem?'”

Mountainside school officials said they’re working with parents to create a new curriculum on the topic, adding that the lesson taught in this incident will be different in the future.

Watch more in the video below.

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