Teacher sues over n-word suspension

Feb. 17, 2012 at 7:57 PM

CHICAGO, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- A teacher who was suspended for using the n-word in class has filed a federal lawsuit against Chicago Public Schools, saying his civil rights were violated.

Lincoln Brown, a 48-year-old white teacher at Murray Language Academy, said he was suspended for using the n-word during a "teachable moment" in class, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday.

Brown said in October he was discussing the use of the racial slur in Huckleberry Finn to show "how upsetting such language can be" when the school's principal, Gregory Mason, walked into the classroom.

Mason charged Brown with "using verbally abusive language to or in front of students" and "cruel, immoral, negligent or criminal conduct or communication to a student, that causes psychological or physical harm" in violation of the Chicago Public Schools policy. After a hearing, Brown was suspended without pay for five days.

Brown appealed his suspension to the CPS, but a CPS hearing officer ruled in December he had "engaged in inappropriate discussions with sixth-grade students during instructional time," ordering him to serve his suspension starting Friday.

"It's so sad -- if we can't discuss these issues, we'll never be able to resolve them," Brown said Thursday.

Brown is suing Mason, schools Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard and the Board of Education, saying his First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated after he attempted "to teach his class ... an important lesson in vocabulary, civility and race relations," the lawsuit said.

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