Ben Franklin teacher on leave after use of slur in class discussion

A Ben Franklin High substitute teacher and assistant coach is on paid leave after a discussion about a racial slur becomes heated in a history class.

NEW ORLEANS - The video begins about 25 minutes into an AP U.S. History class at Ben Franklin High school.   When speaking to a student, the substitute teacher uses the n-word.   Another student begins recording what happens next. 

“That’s racist …how can you not understand it’s racist for a white man to say n**** to a black man?" says the student in the video. 

The student is visibly upset, using profanity as he makes his point that when it comes to the n-word, race is the sole factor that makes the word offensive, or not.

“You act like we’re in conversation and you can say the word and I can’t," says the teacher in the video, identified only as Coach Ryan. “The word has become commoditized to where anyone can use it and it’s not a negative connotation”.  

The exchange goes on for several minutes

Ben Franklin Head of School Dr. Patrick Widhalm says word of the incident spread quickly through the school.   Shortly after that class ended, he says about 20 students came to his office to talk. The conversation was moved to the school auditorium where he says the crowd of students and staff grew to about 100.

"This is something that needs some attention and some follow up," says Dr. Widham

Widhalm says the teacher they call Coach Ryan has been at the school for about 2 years. Students say he coached Boys' Basketball and Girls' Volleyball.

“This is not an acceptable or normal thing to occur. It’s a known thing and you don’t take a word that’s so highly charged and use it an any setting," says Dr. Widham.

The school has placed Coach Ryan on paid leave while it investigates.  Widhalm says he’ll try to determine the context in which the word was used, but admits that may not matter.

“The teacher was talking about the word and trying to put it into some sort of academic setting.  That doesn’t change the nature of what is and what is not appropriate," says Widham

Assane Ndiaye, sophomore, says, "My first impression is he doesn't really care what we think and he doesn't want to take the time to listen."

"You would think a man of that age knows better but I guess he sees it differently than everybody else does," said 18-year-old senior Jack Manson. 

Widhalm says that one recorded conversation has led to many others at Ben Franklin, and that ultimately, that one word may strengthen a word he feels is much more important:   community.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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