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BUSD reacts to alleged racial slur

By Ben Lumpkin Daily Planet staff
Saturday June 02, 2001

A number of African-American students at Willard Middle School walked out of a classroom in protest Wednesday after a teacher allegedly used a racial slur, according to sources at the school. 

Willard administrators declined to comment on the alleged incident Friday. 

Berkeley Associate Superintendent of Administrative Services David Gomez said Friday that he was “aware of the allegations” and had taken “appropriate” action. 

The teacher has been suspended from work pending an investigation into possible misconduct, Gomez said. 

“Our policy is, as soon as we get a complaint against any of our teachers we separate the teacher from the situation so the district can do an investigation,” Gomez said.  

After students accused the teacher of referring to two students as “niggers” Wednesday, Willard Principal Gail Hojo quickly removed the teacher from the classroom, said Lee Berry, a parent volunteer at the school.  

But Berry said he was dismayed to find the teacher back on campus Thursday. 

“I got so angry my eyes about popped out of my head,” said Berry, an African American. 

By Friday, Berry said he was relieved to see the district had taken action. 

“What she did was wrong,” Berry said of the teacher’s alleged slur.  

But he added: “After getting over my anger and reading statements from about six different kids and reading a statement from (the teacher), I really don’t think she meant anything malicious by it.” 

If the teacher did in fact used a racial slur, then the district is warranted in suspending her from work, Willard PTA President Joanie Hamasaki said Friday. 

“Berkeley is a diverse city. Every diverse group in Berkeley should be respected,” Hamasaki said. “A teacher should be there to be a friend and mentor (to students).”