Should This Teacher Be Fired for Saying 'What's Up? My N***a' to Student?

Should This Teacher Be Fired for Saying 'What's Up? My N***a' to Student?

The student and her mom think so.

Published March 17th

Destinee Wornum, a 16-year-old student at Boston Latin School, and her mother are demanding that a teacher who addressed her with the inappropriate greeting, "What's up? My n***a," be fired. 

Wornum told the Boston Globe that the interaction left her feeling "humiliated and embarrassed" by her teacher's use of the slur while the class discussed Huckleberry Finn. Wornum said she was too scared to come forward about it at first, worried that a complaint might impact her grades and her future at the elite school.

That all changed in January, when students at the school started a social media campaign to raise awareness about racial issues at the school. This gave Wornum the confidence to tell her mother, Rosalind Wornum, about her teacher's words. Rosalind has now met with the school's headmaster Lynn Mooney Teta to demand the termination of the teacher's position at Boston Latin.

"That [statement] was cultural incompetence," the mother said in a recent interview. "What was she expecting from making that statement to her? Is it standard process in addressing the book?" she said in reference to the novel, which uses the racist term frequently. 

Destinee explained that her teacher said the term to incite a conversation about the novel. And after she said the racial slur, asked her, "How does that make you feel?" While Destinee understood what the teacher may have been attempting to do, she explained, "I feel like if she wanted to make a point about the n-word, there's always a different way to go about it." Destinee added, "It gives the white students more reason to act out because they see it's OK."

Headmaster Teta has condemned the teacher's use of the n-word and apologized for not addressing the matter sooner. She also told the Wornums that the issue is being dealt with by the Office of Equity. But Rosalind and local Black leaders are calling for the teacher to be removed immediately. 

Racism is a little-talked-about issue that is prevalent at our country's most prestigious schools. Last year students at Yale stood up to demand big changes on campus following complaints of racism: 

(Photo: Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Written by Evelyn Diaz

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