School Security Officer Fired for Repeating Racial Slur Rehired

The incident began when a student being escorted out of school after assaulting the assistant principal called the security officer the N-word.
Published: October 24, 2019

A black security officer who was fired after telling a student not to call him the N-word has gotten his job back.

Marlon Anderson, who has worked for the Madison (Wis.) Metropolitan School District for 11 years, said he has now been placed on paid administrative leave until he and district officials negotiate a “transition plan.”

On Oct. 9, Anderson was escorting a student out of West High School when the student started calling him racial slurs after pushing the school’s assistant principal and threatening to beat her up, USA Today reports. Anderson repeated the slur when he told the teen, who is also black, not to call him that. 

“Every type of N-word you can think of, that’s what he was calling me,” Anderson recalled. “I said, ‘Do not call me that name. I’m not your N-word. Do not call me that.'”

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The assistant principal turned on her portable two-way radio, allowing school administrators to hear the exchange.

Later in the week, Anderson said Principal Karen Boran told him he had “an uphill battle” to keep his job. Boran later wrote in a letter to parents that Anderson would not be returning to the school after an investigation of the incident.

“As you know, our expectation when it comes to racial slurs has been very clear,” Boran wrote. “Regardless of context or circumstance, racial slurs are not acceptable in our schools.”

The school district has a zero-tolerance policy on the use of racial slurs by staff. The policy was adopted after six district employees were fired or forced to resign for using racial slurs in front of or at students.

Anderson said the policy is “lazy.”

“You can’t eliminate racism by ignoring it – by trying to hide the word or by trying to legislate the word,” he said. “What if a white student calls a black student an N-word but doesn’t say the word? It’s the intent behind what you’re saying.”

Anderson was reinstated after Madison School Board President Gloria Reyes urged officials to give him his job back.

Board member Savion Castro, who is one of two board members who are black, weighed in on the situation.

“While I can’t comment on the specifics of Marlon Anderson’s case because I would limit potential options to remedy in the future, I can say the situation is incredibly frustrating because a black man and black child were sharing an incredibly vulnerable moment together in one of our schools,” he said. “Historically, educational spaces have disciplined black and brown bodies out of those spaces for simply being who we are, including language.” 

Prior to his reinstatement, more than 1,000 students walked out of school Friday to protest Anderson’s firing. Some carried signs reading, “Context matters.”

In a Facebook post, Anderson thanked the students who protested, as well as his family and community members for their support.

“Now we have to address the policy!!” Anderson wrote. “God is good!!!!”

Reyes also thanked students for voicing their concerns about the policy and holding school leaders accountable.

“Going forward, we will review our practice and we remain dedicated to protecting our students and staff from harm by implementing practices that are reflective of the humanity involved,” she said. “We will grapple with complexity and assess it through a lens of deep racial equity.”

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