Last month, Stephen Henry, a sixth-grade teacher at Creswell Arts Magnet School in Nashville, overheard a female student describe something as "gay."
He felt compelled to use the "teachable moment" as a way to educate students about offensive words.
Henry told the student that regardless of what one means, when emotionally-charged words are used, the intent of the speaker is often never heard or understood.
Then to demonstrate his point, he then asked the student how she would feel if he called her "the n-word."
The student responded by saying, "How would you feel if I called you a cracker?"
In that moment, Mr. Henry's point was made, but he was about to get a lesson himself.
The student told her mother. Anzora Lee-Starks, the child's mother, told the principal. The principal told Mr Henry she thought a three-day unpaid suspension ought to be a pretty good lesson too.
In addition to being a teacher, Henry is a professional actor who has won numerous awards as a human rights activist and serves as vice president of the Tennessee Equality Project, a group dedicated to advancing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.
"I don't think he meant it to come out the way it did, but I think my daughter was very hurt, and I was very upset about it," Lee-Starks said. "I teach my children not to use that word. I think he made a very poor choice in trying to explain something that is over their heads and using the n-word in the way he did."
Lee-Starks said her daughter was bothered because she felt the teacher was using the "what-if" scenario as an excuse to call her the racial slur.
Lee-Starks said Henry apologized for the incident, and she felt his apology was sincere. But, she said, she doesn't believe he should have been explaining such a sensitive topic to sixth-graders by using such a racially charged word.
This from the Nashville Tennessean.