Marlon Anderson is an African-American man who says he was fired from his security assistant position at a Madison, Wisconsin high school after he used the “N” word in the context of telling a disruptive student to stop calling him the “N” word. He was trying to educate the student that it’s important to not use the word, he says.
The school district has now rescinded Anderson’s termination.
Anderson announced the news on Facebook, writing:
I’m back!! While at work today at Boys & Girls Clubs, I learned from the Madison Teachers Union President that School Supt. Jane Belmore has rescinded the decision of my termination. I will be placed on paid administrative leave and my transition plan is being negotiated. I will continue to work at the Club until we negotiate my return back to the district.
Thank you to the 1,000 plus students for allowing your voices to be heard and to all the people from across the globe for reaching out to my family. Thank you MTI, West BSU, my son, Noah Anderson and my colleagues at West High School for your prayers and support. You are amazing people!
I would not have made it this far without the support of Michael Johnson, Kaleem Caire, Adam Clausen, Nehemiah and most importantly my wife, Ozanne Anderson who has been there with me every step of the way.
Also, thank you Gloria Reyes, MMSD School Board President for working with Boys & Girls Club and Brandi Grayson, and my union to advocate for my return. Now we have to address the policy!! God is good!!!!
That context was everything, Anderson’s supporters said. And they are many. His termination and the strict enforcement by the school district of a “zero tolerance” policy outraged many people, including the actress Cher, who vowed to foot the costs for any lawsuit Anderson would file against the school district.
She was just one of many people who rallied around Anderson, calling for the school district to give the father of three his job back. A Change.org petition urging just that has been signed by more than 9,000 people.
“I am still fighting for my position @ West and for justice to be applied to my situation,” Anderson wrote on Facebook. “I am also still fighting to challenge the ‘no tolerance’ policy that made me a casualty to its flawed planning and implementation. Please continue to keep us in your prayers…God bless.”
There’s some evidence that the public pressure might be moving school officials. “I think what we are hearing is that there are many other lenses that we should be looking at this policy through,” said interim superintendent Jane Belmore to WKOW-TV. “And that’s what we want to try to make space for.”
However, Gloria Reyes, president of the Madison Board of Education, reiterated to CNN: “We are working to make our school climates the best they can be for all students and staff. We’ve taken a tough stance on racial slurs, and we believe that language has no place in schools.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Anderson Says He Used the Racial Slur Only to Tell the Student Not to Say It
Anderson’s side of the story is simple. He says he used the slur only to tell the student, who is also black, not to use the slur, according to The Associated Press. Anderson claims the Madison West High School student was being disruptive during the October 9, 2019 incident.
According to the Change.org petition and his Facebook page, Anderson says: “Short story…. I get called a bit** *ss Ni**A by a student, I responded do ‘not call me ni**a!’ And I got fired. MMSD I, unfortunately, expected better.” MMSD stands for Madison Metropolitan School District.
Anderson told CNN that the incident occurred when he was called to “help the assistant principal escort a student from school grounds,” but the student was allegedly “resisting, including yelling and pushing the principal.” Anderson told CNN the student yelled the slur and expletives at him. He told CNN he tried at first to tell the student to stop without using the N word, but the student kept hurling it at him, so finally he said, “Don’t call me (n-word),” the comment that he says got him fired.
“Because I didn’t accept it and tried to correct the behavior with hopes of a restorative conversation, I got fired,” he told 27 News.
According to the Capital Times newspaper in Madison, the school district’s position is that Anderson violated a “zero tolerance” policy by using a racial slur.
2. Many People Have Urged the School District to Give Marlon Anderson His Job Back & He Was Offered an Interim Position at a Boys & Girls Club
Staff members in the school district posted a photo in support of Anderson, holding signs that said things like “black staff matter” and “MMSD Zero Context. Context matters.”
According to the Capital Times, Anderson has received a lot of support. The West Black Student Union’s members held a walkout urging the school district to give Anderson his job back (his son, Noah, is its president). His union has filed a grievance.
“We hope that the union will press the issue aggressively on behalf of Anderson and all of its members,” a Cap Times editorial urged.
Anderson took to Facebook to share videos of the walkout and expressed great emotion, writing, “I have cried so much watching you guys on social media my head lost weight, I am overwhelmed by the love when I get back I will personally walk everybody to class ON TIME ! Today America witnessed the best of us, many different races, faiths, cultures, all together many faces one goal, justice… thank you,all of you, thank your families, for supporting you, thank you Madison Police for keeping our kids safe, I truly love y’all all y’all!”
Anderson also revealed that he has been offered a job with a local Boys & Girls Club.
“I want to thank Michael Johnson for offering me this interim position @ the Boys and Girls Club. This is a great help to be able to earn wages while we go through this appeals process,” he wrote on Facebook.
3. Anderson Requires Insulin & Is Concerned About Loss of Health Care Benefits
On Facebook, Anderson gave details about the cost to his family and his health from the termination.
“The reality is I did not just loose (sic) wages but also benefits. Most importantly we will soon be without health insurance… which makes the loss that much more impactful to myself and my family,” he wrote. “My medical needs are the most urgent concern to me as I am insulin dependent. This among other reasons is why I am still fighting for my position @ West with fervor.”
He added: “I am amazed at the dynamic support from my Madison Community your love is recognized and so appreciated.”
Anderson frequently posts religious references on social media. “Psalm 18:2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold,” he wrote in one post after his firing.
4. Anderson, a Married Father, Went to a Milwaukee High School & Is From Mississippi
According to his Facebook page, Anderson’s title at the Madison high school was “School Security Assistant.” He wrote that he “went to Milwaukee High School of the Arts,” is from Itta Bena, Mississippi, and is married to Ozanne J. Kincaid-Anderson.
He has filled his Facebook page with photos showing his wife and three sons. In June, he wrote of his son, Micah: “Micah Anderson became 14 years old yesterday, graduated middle school today, and leaves for Vegas tomorrow because he and his team won the 100 black men black History bowl to compete nationally ( they will probably win that to…….PROUD DAD!!!!!!!!!!! KEEP UP THE AMAZING WORK SON LOVE YOU TOO MUCH!”
In 2018, he wrote on Facebook that he had been married to his wife for 20 years, writing, “Happy anniversary. I think we got this right, 20 years later I can still say I love you with no regrets.” CNN reports that one of Anderson’s kids is a senior at the Madison high school and another is a recent graduate.
5. Anderson Is Described as a Person Who Makes African-American Students Feel Welcome in School
Many people have praised Anderson’s personality and importance to the school district. “He is the reason that most of our black student show up,” said Michelle Bayouth, a Latin teacher at the school, to WKOW-TV. “He makes them feel wanted in this school.”
Cher wrote on Twitter, responding to a news story on Anderson: “How Can Ppl Be This Disrespectful⁉️ A Beloved,Man of Color Just Passed,& Our Nations Mourning Him.Cong.Elijah Cummings FOUGHT FOR JUSTICE.He Was loved & Feared. If You Want To sue MMSD Ed.Board I Will Incur Your expenses.?EC.”
Community leader Kaleem Caire urged Madison to “do better” and the school district to give Anderson his job back, writing on Madison365, “MMSD needs to modify this lazy, harmful and hole-punched policy that allows it to avoid doing the real work that any HR department should do by looking at the context in which such a word (or any other) is used. They are an academic institution and should be educating themselves and young people about the use of words like the N-word, not running from it.”
Caire added, “Marlon spent 12 years in MMSD. Who will replace him and the strong relationships and familiarity he had with students and staff? I also want to add that last year I helped a white female teacher get another teaching job after she was given the option by MMSD to resign or be terminated (she resigned) after she used the N-word as means to try to correct a student who was using racist language in class.”
“My understanding of the policy was white staff shouldn’t use the N-word under any circumstances,” Anderson said to NBC News. “But I had no idea me being called the word and me telling the student not to call me the word would get me fired.”
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