A St. Paul Public Schools staff member has been placed on leave after she was captured on video using a racial slur in a conversation with students.
District officials did not name the Highland Park Middle School staff member but posted a statement on the district’s website Thursday saying the matter was under investigation and that the “disturbing” incident had “caused harm to our Black students, their families and our entire school community.” A letter sent to parents of students at the school promised “immediate, aggressive action to address this situation.”
In the short, blurry video clip circulated on social media sites Thursday, a handful of people — the staff member, some students and another adult — are standing in a school hallway, filmed only from the waist down. The video begins with the staff member, a woman, saying: “I just walk around the room … I just pick on them. ’Cause they’re black. And they’re the only [expletive] [racial slur] doing any work.” The staff member then apologizes, as an exasperated student says: “I’m done with you.”
Another adult in the video then appears to try to explain the staff member’s comments to the students, saying she had repeated comments another person had made.
“I know,” the staff member said, before the video cuts off, “I’m sorry.”
It’s not clear what precipitated the conversation.
The statement, signed by Superintendent Joe Gothard and Highland Park Middle School Principal Char Hoff, said the staff member’s language was unacceptable.
“No matter the situation, the racist and foul language used by a staff member in the video has no place in St. Paul Public Schools,” the statement said.
The officials said the incident stands in contrast to the district’s values and said St. Paul Public Schools would have “a lot of work to do to repair harm and rebuild trust with our students and our community.”
“We will not be silent in the face of racist language in our schools — and we cannot perpetuate it,” they said. “We will not make excuses for actions that hurt the students that we as educators have dedicated our lives to serve.”