2nd Manitoba teacher in a month being investigated for using N-word in class
Substitute teacher in Niverville used slur less than a month after Winnipeg teacher was put on leave
For the second time in less than a month, a Manitoba teacher is under investigation for using racist language in the classroom.
A substitute teacher used a racial slur for Black people in a Niverville High School class Friday, according to students.
The Hanover School Division confirmed it is investigating and says the teacher in question will not be allowed to work while that is underway.
Isaack Dini, 15, a student at the high school in the southern Manitoba town, says he was speaking to a friend in class on Friday and used the N-word.
He was shocked when the substitute teacher, who is white, repeated it back to him and his friend.
"I said, 'What's up, my N-word?' — just as a funny joke. And everybody starts laughing, and then she [the teacher] asks, 'Which one of you is the N-word?'" said Dini, who is Black.
"I kind of just looked up in shock."
The aftermath was caught on cellphone videos by other students in the room and shared on social media. Those videos were shared with CBC.
In the video, the teacher appears to challenge Dini's use of the word and admits to using it herself.
"I mean, am I gonna die? I said it out loud," the teacher is heard saying.
The students then tell her she is being racist, but the conversation doesn't end there.
"It wasn't directed at anybody — it was literally an offhand comment. It's not an excuse, it was an offhand comment," she says.
Dini said the initial use of the word upset him, but the teacher escalated the situation.
"She was trying to explain to me that she was allowed to say it, and that's what got me pissed off," he said.
In the video, the teacher later apologizes and assures Dini she won't be back in his classroom again, saying she planned to talk with the school's principal about what happened.
The teacher ended up leaving the room, Dini said, and didn't come back.
Incident shows need for anti-racist policy: advocate
In an emailed statement, Hanover School Division said it strongly condemns all racist actions and words.
"No one has the right to discriminate against, harass, bully, show disrespect towards anyone else, at work/school or in any related situation," said interim superintendent Shelley Amos.
The incident comes less than a month after a Winnipeg high school teacher with the Franco-Manitoban School Division was placed on leave after using the N-word in class in October.
Blandine Tona with Parents Against Racism, a group that formed to address issues of racism within the Franco-Manitoban School Division, said using the word in class is not acceptable.
"It's appalling to see that happen again and again in school," she said.
Tona watched the video of the conversation after the Niverville incident. She was disappointed that someone in a position of power would use the racist word and then argue with students about why they should be allowed to use it.
The incident shows a need for clear policies on racism, and that teachers need to be trained to de-escalate situations that are triggering, Tona said.
Having a policy that focuses on respectful behaviour or inclusion is not the same as having a policy that is explicitly anti-racist, she said.
"We have to stop being complacent with words. Racism is a specific word, it is specific behaviours."
Tona also said schools need to have a mechanism for students to report incidents of racism.
Parents weren't contacted: aunt
The division says resources are being made available to students and the school will continue to communicate with parents and caregivers about what happened.
Dini's family disputes that, saying there's been little communication.
His aunt says it was Dini who first told his mom about what happened — not the school.
"There was no attempt of calling the parents," said Saadiyo-Ikram Abdillahi, who spoke on behalf of Dini's mom.
"They need to first of all come up with a new protocol if something like that ever happens again," which should include calling the parents right away, she said.
Dini and two of his friends who were in the class on Friday say aside from being asked what happened by school officials last week, there have been no conversations about the incident and no offers of support.
They'd also like to know what will happen to the teacher.
"I just don't want that sub to go to another school and do the exact same thing to another student," Dini said.
'I shouldn't have said it': student
The teacher's use of the N-word is an example of "casual racism," says Jason Pinder, a member of Educators Of Colour — an organization that works toward for diversity in education.
Pinder said the fact a student used the word first does not give the teacher the right to repeat it.
"Because of the prominence of urban music, it's a term that's just been used, abused and overused, and everyone feels comfortable with the word now," he said.
"But it's still strongly linked to racist attitudes of the past, and for people to think that 'my privilege and entitlement to say this word overrides your feelings' is a ridiculous idea," he said.
Dini says he regrets using the N- word.
"I shouldn't have said it in the first place, and that was wrong of me," he said.
"I've apologized and I know that I was in the wrong, but she should also know that she was in the wrong."
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.