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Claudia Alves, Principal of Poulsbo Elementary School in Poulsbo, Washington, has been placed on a leave of absence while the school district investigates her use of the n-word when talking to students, reports the Kitsap Sun.

Superintendent Patty Page sent a letter home to parents informing them of the incident and the ongoing search for an acting principal.

When a group of students voiced their discomfort with saying “Negro” during rehearsal for a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. play, Alves allegedly attempted to explain  the difference between a “Negro” and a “nig***.”

Read more from the Kitsap Sun:

Shawna Smith, mother of a Poulsbo fifth-grader, said students in her son’s class were uncomfortable with the word “Negro” in a play they were rehearsing about Martin Luther King. Smith said the students’ teacher tried to explain it but had trouble getting them to understand its historical context. Alves was in the room and the teacher asked her for help. Smith said several children were troubled by the use of the word and would look at her son and another child in the class when it was used. Smith is white and is married to Matthew Smith, who is black.

Many of the children still were not comfortable with using the word after Alves explained it. Her son and a classmate refused to be in the play. After her son acted up during one of the play’s performances, he was sent to Alves’ office, where they discussed the word again, Shawna Smith said. Her son explained that he still was uncomfortable with the word “Negro,” to which Alves told him it was not the same as the N-word, only she used the actual word, Smith said.

Smith said she taught her son to never use that word in any situation, so when he came home upset after hearing his principal say it, she complained to the district Jan. 15. Two days later, district officials called back and expressed sympathy and a commitment to make it clear using the N-word in any situation was unacceptable, Smith said.

After that call, Alves called Smith and in explaining what happened in her office used the word twice, Smith said. A district official said they would be talking to Alves again and asked Smith whether there was anything else she wanted. Smith said she asked for there to be sensitivity training in the district.

Smith allegedly used the n-word again on the phone with Smith’s husband and was suspended two days later.

Michael Steele discussed the topic on “NewsOne Now” and why talking with students about the n-word is necessary. “When it comes to talking about black folks and the history of their narrative,” Steele said, “and the language that has been used that you cannot teach that now? Is that what you’re basically saying? In the context of a Martin Luther King celebration in which every person at that time was called the n-word, for better or worse, you cannot teach that contextually, that’s a problem… How do we tech our own about our history?”

Listen to the entire panel discussion below:

Read more at the Kitsap Sun.

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