Madison, WI – A high school security guard who was fired for using a racial slur during a “restorative conversation” with a student has filed an appeal with the school district in an attempt to get his job back.
Marlon Anderson worked for the Madison School District as a security guard for 11 years, The Wisconsin State Journal reported.
“I need the district to answer the question of how can a black man lose his job for telling a student to not call him the N-word,” Anderson told the paper.
“I had no idea I was going to be terminated, because I didn’t understand that zero tolerance meant there is no context attached to the word,” he said.
The incident occurred on Oct. 9, after Anderson was called to a West High School to handle a disruptive student, The Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Assistant Principal Jennifer Talarczyk was escorting the student out of the school building when Anderson arrived.
At one point during the altercation, the student – who is black – unleashed a string of profanities against Anderson, to include the “N-word,” The Wisconsin State Journal reported.
“Do not call me a n—-r,” Anderson told the teen. “Do not call me that word.”
According to Anderson, Talarczyk made no attempt to stop the student from using the slur, but she did activate her radio, which broadcasted Anderson’s conversation with the teen.
Anderson said Talarczyk’s action made him feel “targeted,” The Wisconsin State Journal reported.
West High School Principal Karen Boran addressed the longtime security guard’s firing in an email to parents and guardians on Oct. 16.
“Regardless of context or circumstance, racial slurs are not acceptable in our schools,” Boran said, referring to the district’s zero-tolerance policy.
The student involved in the incident could face a potential suspension up to five days, The Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Anderson said he is appealing his firing, and that he has received an outpouring of support since he posted about the incident on social media, WMTV reported.
“I didn’t have an opportunity to be mad, scared, worried or anything. I just got hit with a busload of love,” he told the news outlet. “Literally people have stopped me on the street and just gave me a hug.”
“In the context in which I used the word I was trying to correct a behavior, and correct the mentality and have a restorative conversation with the young man,” Anderson noted. “If a young man is walking through the hallways and walking through life with a mentality that ‘I’m a n-word,’ he needs to be told you are so much more than a word that was given to you to oppress you.”
He said he would have understood the district’s decision to fire him if he would have called the student by a derogatory term, but remained adamant that he had done nothing of the sort, according to The Wisconsin State Journal.
Madison West High School students have rallied around the former security guard, and staged a walkout in protest of his firing on Oct. 18.
“They are educating us,” school board president Gloria Reyes said of the students, according to WKOW. “They are our future, and we have to consider them in making decisions and policies that impact them directly.”
Singer and actress Cher has also offered to cover any of Anderson’s legal expenses, WMTV reported.
Anderson has since been hired as the director of program operations for the Dane County Boys and Girls Club, WAOW reported.
The position is intended to be temporary to allow Anderson to go through the appeals process with the school district.
“I think this specific circumstance is going to raise the issue of amending the policy,” Madison Teachers Inc. Executive Director Doug Keillor told The Wisconsin State Journal. “This is a situation that clearly shows context matters.”