LAUSD teacher says he spelled out 'N-word' during history lecture
LOS ANGELES >> A Los Angeles Unified teacher temporarily suspended from teaching at a Brentwood middle school earlier this year amid allegations he made racially charged remarks in class acknowledges in new court papers that he spelled out the "N-word" during a history lecture.
But Steven Carnine says he referred to the polarizing term during a history lesson in January to underscore racial hatred that existed during the time of President Abraham Lincoln.
"I do not like using derogatory terms, but wanted this lesson to reflect the temper of the time of white southerners and drive home the concept of the racial animosity that helped spark the Civil War," Steven Carnine says in a sworn declaration filed Monday in connection with an LAUSD motion to dismiss a Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed on behalf of Maggie B by her father, identified only as Shawn B.
The girl, one of Carnine's former students, is half black and half white.
The complaint alleges civil rights violations, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Attorneys for the district maintain the lawsuit should be thrown out because it infringes on Carnine's right to speak freely during history lectures.
Carnine says he did not intend to racially discriminate against the plaintiff.
"My discussion of white southerners opposed to President Lincoln during this class was not intended to racially discriminate against plaintiff," Carnine says. "It is my job to teach students about the harsh realities encountered in learning about periods of ignorance and intolerance in our history and society."
The girl did not seem offended by Carnine's remarks, he says.
"I do not recall ever noticing plaintiff appearing to be humiliated, embarrassed or feeling unsafe after this lesson," he says.
Carnine says he treats all his students fairly regardless of their ethnicity.
"I am half Chinese and I have experienced discrimination in my lifetime because of my race," he says. "I would not do the same thing to another human being."
The suit names Carnine, Los Angeles Unified and Paul Revere Charter Middle School and Magnet Center, where the plaintiff attended school when she claims she was offended by the teacher's remarks.
The lawsuit filed March 18, also alleges Carnine said that Michael Brown, the young black man fatally shot in August 2014 by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, "got what he deserved."
According to the lawsuit, on Jan. 16, the day after the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Carnine handed out a questionnaire that asked about racial stereotypes,
During the ensuing discussion, Carnine brought up the shooting of Brown by former Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson, the lawsuit states.
"In discussing the incident, Carnine said that the guy was a thug and he got what he deserved," according to the suit, which alleges that the teacher also said, "Black people are judged for not being smart because they are not smart. A lot of them are just athletes."
On Jan. 29, during a lecture on the Civil War, Carnine stated that "people didn't like Lincoln because he was a (N-word) lover," the complaint alleges. Carnine was "staring and smirking" at the plaintiff when he made the remark, according to the suit.
But according to Carnine, he did not disparage Brown.
"I did not say that Mr. Brown was a thug who got what he deserved," Carnine says. "In fact, I told the class the exact opposite, that Mr. Brown did not deserve to be shot. I also expressed to the class how outrageous it was that Mr. Brown's body laid in the streets of Ferguson for hours after his death."
Carnine also says he did not stare at the plaintiff and did not equate her or other blacks with crime and violence.
In another declaration, Paul Revere School Assistant Principal Thomas Iannucci stated that he investigated the plaintiff's complaint and obtained written statements from several students who were also were in Carnine's class during his lecture when he spelled out the "N-word."
All but one of the students corroborated Carnine's claim that he spelled out the "N-word" and did not actually say it, Iannucci says. The other student said he did not hear Carnine say the negative term, Iannucci says.
"Most students said that Mr. Carnine gave a disclaimer before using it and said, 'Please excuse my language' or words to that effect," according to Iannucci.
None of the other students interviewed, one of whom was black, said they were offended by Carnine's comments, Iannucci said.
"The investigation confirmed that the word was used as part of a teaching moment," Iannucci says.
The plaintiff continued to take part in school events after the incident, including a family picnic and the eighth grade graduation ceremonies in June, Iannucci says.
"When I was a teacher I gave lessons on stereotypes as part of a unit I taught on tolerance," Iannucci says. "I know that other teachers teach these types of lessons as well."
A hearing on the LAUSD motion to dismiss the lawsuit is scheduled Nov. 18 before Judge Rafael Ongkeko.
The plaintiff started attending Paul Revere Charter Middle School in 2013 as a seventh-grade student and selected the campus because of its racial and socioeconomic diversity, according to the lawsuit.