An online petition has gathered more than 1,300 signatures on behalf of a popular Virginia high school teacher who was kicked out of the classroom earlier this month for using a racial slur.
The petition claims history teacher Lynne Pierce, who is white, did nothing wrong when she uttered the “N-word” during a discussion with her students at Heritage High School in Newport News about racism, derogatory terms and the nickname of the Washington Redskins. Heritage is 90 percent black.
“She is a history teacher, she cannot be censored for teaching terms and beliefs that people had throughout history,” the petition says.
Pierce, a teacher for 40 years, landed in hot water Sept. 18 when a student in her Advance Placement U.S. History class brought up the Redskins and asked her what was the big deal.
"The kids kept saying, 'It's no big deal, it's a football team,'” Pierce told the Newport News Daily Press Thursday. “I said, 'How would you feel if people had a team named after another group?'"
WTKR-TV reported Thursday that Pierce then said to the class, “What would you think if someone started a team called the Newport News N----r?”
"It's not what you think it is; she's not a bad person."
A student who took offense reported Pierce to the principal.
At the end of the school day, an assistant principal informed the teacher she was being placed on paid administrative leave, pending an investigation to determine if she should be disciplined or allowed back in the classroom.
The school was reportedly still investigating as of last Friday.
A spokeswoman for Newport News Public Schools did not immediately return an email seeking comment from FoxNews.com Sunday.
"While I cannot specifically address personnel matters, I can share with you that Newport News Public Schools is dedicated to ensuring that our students are educated in a professional, safe and nurturing environment," the spokeswoman said in a statement last week to the Daily Press.
"When a school administrator receives a complaint or concern from a student or family member about possible inappropriate employee behavior, an investigation is launched as all such concerns are taken very seriously," the statement added.
The person behind the petition is Juslena Williams, a black 2011 Heritage grad who never had Pierce as a teacher, but said she is worth standing up for.
"It's not what you think it is; she's not a bad person," she told WVEC-TV Thursday.
"I'm not offended by anything Mrs. Pierce teaches or said, because I feel like (at) Heritage High School and just any of the high schools around here, she is probably the best teacher around here that I've known," she said.