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‘I Can Say a Word In the English Language’: Defiant Tennessee High School Teacher Ignores Students’ Pleas to Stop Using N-Word In Class, Faces Suspension 

A high school teacher in Knoxville, Tennessee, has been placed on administrative leave after his students recorded him using the N-word during class.

Despite requests from his students to refrain from using the racial epithet, he continued and even doubled down on why he believed it was acceptable for him to use it.

Tennessee teacher suspended for using the N-word
A screenshot of a viral video of a Tennessee teacher repeating the N-word after students tell him not to. (Jennifer Lawson/Facebook)

Knox County Schools has suspended the teacher from South-Doyle High School with pay.

The incident was captured on video by 16-year-old student Hero Lawson, who was present in the class when the teacher used the racial slur. In an interview with WVLT, Lawson explained that she and her classmates immediately called out the teacher’s inappropriate language during their first-period chemistry class on March 27.

Lawson shared the video on social media, and it quickly went viral.

In the video, the teacher argued that his use of the n-word was not meant to be derogatory. He claimed he was repeating what another student had said earlier in reference to others in the class.

During the class, the teacher also shared what he believed to be the right and wrong ways to use the word. He claimed that it was acceptable because he didn’t direct it to anyone. However, both Black and white students continued to ask him to refrain from using the word, but he refused.

Hero Lawson, who captured the incident on video, empathized with her Black classmates and could see the hurt on their faces. She said, “It was not just anger. It was flat-out hurt, and you could hear it in their voices when they are pleading for this guy to shut up. Just stop.”

Malayia Pelcher, another student in the class, revealed that the teacher used the word in response to a Black student who had used it first. The Black student had asked, “Mr. Graves, why aren’t you calling out any of these other n***as?”

After hearing the student say the word, the teacher repeated it. When students told him he should never use the word because it was derogatory, he responded, “I don’t care. I can say a word in the English language.”

The racial makeup of the school may have made his comments more offensive. The school has over 1,000 students enrolled this year, with almost 76 percent of them being white and 14 percent being Black, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Pelcher expressed her hurt and disappointment with the incident, saying, “The whole thing made me feel like our teacher doesn’t care about us. Why would you say that to us as a class when we didn’t do anything to you?”

Knox County Schools representative and School Board Chair Kristi Kristy released a statement in response to the incident, confirming that an investigation into the incident has been launched and the teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave. She also stated that “Knox County Schools does not tolerate any instances of racism.”

The teacher is still currently employed by the school, but his status may change depending on the outcome of the investigation, according to Carly Harrington, a spokesperson for the district.

What people are saying

8 thoughts on “‘I Can Say a Word In the English Language’: Defiant Tennessee High School Teacher Ignores Students’ Pleas to Stop Using N-Word In Class, Faces Suspension 

  1. Nora Hansen says:

    Even though I do NOT like it when one black person calls another the ‘N’ word it is NEVER ok for a WHITE person to use that word. No matter what the situation. Fire the teacher. The fact that he’s on PAID suspension is utterly ridiculous. If my child had been in that class he’d have been fired by now.

  2. Nani says:

    Crazy thing is they are racist at the middle school as well. The principal at the midd School was ok with my sons white peers calling him a monkey. To him in his words they were just words.

  3. NunYoBizness says:

    So are the students going to start getting suspended for using the word? Regardless of color, it is a derogatory word that should be erased from existence…like the other history that is being erased. This is a complete double standard and has no place in society. The old saying…if it’s good for the goose; it’s good for the gander, comes to mind. Once again, it is never ok to say; by ANYONE!!!!! So unless they set the standard to be equal, it’s just another reason they will lose more staff.

  4. Carole Cross says:

    The word should be banned from ANYONE using it. It’s the most vile word in history. The issue is that there is a double standard, and until that is corrected, we’ll always have this issue.

    PS kids are allowed to say “fuck” in class now, too? No wonder there is so much disrespect being hurled back and forth.

  5. @NunYoBizness y don’t u do jus wat yo name mean bc ain’t tha end of tha day WYPIPO RACIST ASSES CANNOT say tha word whereas WE can!!! Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished!!! Dumbass

  6. Paula Langston says:

    No one should use the word!! @ NunyoBizness, this man is a teacher he should be setting an example for his Students, not upsetting them. They asked him to refrain from using the word, instead he keeps repeating it trying to egg them on. Truthfully he should be fired instead of on administrative leave. That is also another slap in the face to the students. If my child went to that school, you better believe I would be there the next day calling for his resignation.

  7. T. says:

    This os just more and more division…. if certain groups can’t use a word, bc it’s considered “derogatory “, then nobody should use it. Stop the double standards!!!! It’s just a word, a word I’ve been called since I was about 13. I’m a 44 ye old white female that still gets called that by my friends and my kids to this day. My kids are biracial, most of my friends are of African descent. Everyone is so offended these days and that’s the point. Stop getting offended at every little thing. I’m sure the teacher was sick of it and was trying to show them what it’s lile to constantly have to hear that word thrown about during the course of a day at school. You’ve got the whole school saying it but chastise a white teacher for it. Just stop, STOP THE TRIVIAL FIGHTING OVER WORDS!!!! WORDS ARE NOTHING! WE WERE TAUGHT “STICKS AND ATINES MAY BREAK MY BONES BUT WORDS CAN NEVER HURT ME!” TIME TO STOP RAISING SOFTIES, AND GET BACK TO THE REAL WORKD WHEN CANCELING EVERYTHING AMD EVERYONE IS NOT AN OPTION. RACISM HAS NO PLACE IN AMERICA OR ANYWHERE ELSE! IF WE KEEP HANGING ONTO SIMPLE CRAP LIKE A WORD THEN WE AINT FIGHTING THE REAL RACISTS AND THE REAL PROBLEMS! LETS FIGHT THE PROBLEMS, THOSE OUT HERE CAUSING BODILY HARM, THOSE OUT HERE HURTING PEOPLE AND TAKING LIVES FOR NO REASON. LETS GET OFF THE SIMPLE SHIT AND BAND TOGETHER TO FIGHT THE REAL RACISTS INSTEAD OF SAYING A WORD THEN THE CRUCIFIXION OF THOSE WHO USE IT IF THEY HAPPEN TO BE WHITE SKINNED. I DONT LILE THE WORD EITHER, BUT, ITS JUST A WORD! ANWORD USED BY THE FOLKS WHO ARE SAYING THEYRE OFFENDED BY IT!!!! WAKE THE FK UP PEOPLE!!!! THIS IS TO DIVIDE US FURTHER! DONT LET SIMPLE THINGS LILE THIS BRING YOU DOWN, WE MUST STAND TOGETHER NOW, AND FIGHT THE REAL EVIL IN THIS COUNTRY!

  8. T says:

    Stupid phone and I didn’t proof read before posting to mistakes were made lol don’t come for me for that but yall can see my point. We gotta band together!!!

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