Last week, we reported that a white high school teacher in Kankakee, Illinois, was caught on camera calling a Black student a “f****** n*****r” during class. Well, now the teacher has been fired, there are new details regarding an alleged book-throwing incident that preceded the racial slur, and the school districts superintendent appears to be stretching herself into a knot trying to tie the teacher’s clear racism to mental health issues following the COVID-19 pandemic. (Yes, you read that right.)
According to CNN, the Kankakee School Board voted unanimously to fire first-year math teacher John Donovan after he was recorded calling a Black student the n-word as the student was leaving the classroom.
Another video shows Donovan arguing with the student about an incident in which a book was allegedly thrown. The back-and-forth was difficult to hear in the video, so a lot of people assumed it was the student that threw a book at the teacher, but, according to the student’s mother and attorney, it was the other way around.
Kankakee School District Superintendent Dr. Genevra Walters tells CNN that neither the school’s principal, its human resources department nor herself knew about the book-throwing incident prior to the most recent confrontation between the student and teacher. She also said the district does “not have any information that the book made contact with the student.”
The teen’s mother, Geraldine Nelson, says the school’s assistant principal left her a voicemail after the September incident saying the teacher would be apologizing to her son for throwing the book at him. When asked by CNN, Walters says the assistant principal shared information from the report the teen made with administrators with his mother, but Walters says she is unaware if a voicemail was left.
Donovan reportedly kicked the student out last month for being on his cell phone during class. When the teen began to leave without picking up his books, Donovan threw a book at him and hit him on the leg, his family’s attorney said at a school board meeting
So, basically, this edukkator should never have been allowed inside a classroom in the first place. But also, if the book-throwing incident is true, somebody dropped the ball in getting rid of this violent and racist thug the month prior to the n-word incident. If the school’s assistant principal knew of the incident, why was Donavan even still teaching?
“If a teacher is willing to…throw something at a student, who knows what they’re willing to do,” Kevin O’Connor, an attorney for the family, told CNN.
As for why Donovan wasn’t immediately fired after calling a student the n-word in front of the class, and why he was instead placed on paid leave, Walters explained that he was only paid for two days before his termination was recommended and that Donovan couldn’t simply be fired before the investigation was complete.
“We have to give the student and the teacher due process, and we have to follow the Illinois school code when we’re terminating a licensed teacher,” Walters said.
OK, fine. I’m willing to cut Walters a little slack if the Illinois education system won’t allow for a teacher to get the boot the second they reveal themselves to be racists in front of a chalkboard. But then she appeared to try to link Donovan’s behavior to a mental health crisis.
More from CNN:
Superintendent Walters also said that mental health issues and faculty shortages have plagued public education, and though this is disheartening for everyone involved, “the root of the problem must be addressed in a systemic way.”
Walters said that before this incident, there were “other things going on with a lot of other different people” due to the mental health struggles that both students and faculty experienced coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic. But this, according to Walters, “was just the most egregious example of what we’ve been going through for some time.”
I need Walters to explain which mental illness causes racism. Which pandemic-related condition causes an otherwise non-racist white man to suddenly start slinging the n-word at a Black student like it was, well, a book, apparently?
Is it COVID or KKKOVID? That’s all I’m asking.
Meanwhile, O’Connor said firing Donivan isn’t enough, and he wants anyone who knew about the alleged book-throwing incident held accountable.
“I want everybody who knew about that incident–whether it’s the assistant principal, the principal, or some of these board members–I want them called to the table to find out what they knew; why they didn’t call the police when he was battered by this teacher by throwing a book at him; why they didn’t call DCFS [Department of Children and Family Services],” he said.