A 65-year-old Bronx High School teacher said she's suing her former school because she's still without work and fighting for her reputation a year after being fired for allegedly calling a student “negro” and a “failure.”
Petrona Smith filed a wrongful termination suit after she was fired from a middle school in March 2012 after a seventh-grade student complained about being called “Negro,” the Spanish word for black.
Ultimately, Smith, who's black and originally from the West Indies and teaches Spanish, said it was all just lost in translation and her student misunderstood her meaning.
According to Smith, she was teaching a lesson on how to say different colors in Spanish when she said “negro.” She even explained that negro is not a derrogatory word for native Spanish speakers and that natives usually use the word “moreno” when talking about a black person.
Smith said she never called the student a failure but merely asked some students to move to the back of the room after students had failed a test.
“They haven’t even accounted for how absurd it is for someone who’s black to be using a racial slur to a student,” said Shaun Reid, Smith’s attorney told the New York Post. “Talk about context! There’s a lot of things wrong here.”
Things are so wrong, according to Smith, that in fact it was her, not the student, was the victim of verbal abuse -- including being called insults such as “f---ing monkey,” “a cockroach” and a “n---r.”
Four seventh grade witnesses substantiated the claims of the student, according to the Post, though the student’s own parents said he’d lied about it all.