In a recent article, math teacher Cynthia Ramsey of Camden County High School in North Carolina told a student the she would kill all Blacks if she had ten days left to live which could deem her as a racist teacher. After a complaint by parent Kimberley Ashcraft and validation by a group of students who also heard the statement, the teacher was suspended without pay. The teacher was reinstated after a few days and the county sheriffs investigation has been turned over to the prosecutors office for criminal consideration.
According to the constitution of the United States this teacher has a right to exercise her opinion even if it places a stigma of racist teacher on the individual. Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas using one’s body and property to anyone who is willing to receive them. In this case, the student was having a discussion with the teacher about her bucket list and the teacher responded “I would kill all Black people”. The student had taken a position that he/she was willing to receive the teachers conversation. Therefore, there is no violation of any constitutional rights.
The teacher can not be prosecuted for a hate crime even though many may consider her a racist teacher. A hate crime is normally a violent crime that occurs when the perpetrator targets its victim because of their membership in certain groups which include ethnicity, gender identity, language, nationality, physical appearance, religion, or sexual orientation. The mere fact of the conversation does indicate a hate crime. The teacher did not discuss how she would do it so it may be difficult for the local prosecutor to make a criminal case. According to the constitution and how hate crimes are defined, the individual has a right to be a racist teacher.
However, according to the North Carolina State Board of Education Policy manual, Cynthia Ramsey has violated several tenants of the policy that can apply to a racist teacher. Under article 2 – Commitment to the School and School District – Utilizes available resources to provide a classroom environment conducive to learning and to promote learning to the possible extent. The teacher is a main resource for the school district. Since she has made a publicized racist comment towards blacks with a student population of 77% White and 18% Black she has created an atmosphere for racial tension.
When we have racial tension in schools it will impact teachers, students, and academics. Many Black students will be infuriated with the comment. This will cause racial tension between White teachers and Black students. It will also cause racial tension between White and Black students. The students who agree with the teacher may find themselves in fights with students who disagree with the teacher remarks. Therefore disciplinary infractions will increase. Many students who disagree with the reinstatement of the teacher may decide that the decisions made at Camden County High School are unfair and decide that the education at this school is not important which will also impact student standardized testing.
Furthermore, under The Standards of Professional Conduct – Conduct with Students – the teacher shall not use any language that is considered profane, vulgar, or dreaming. For a teacher to tell students of any ethnicity that they would kill all people of another ethnicity is at the very least demeaning.
The first step that the school district must take is to ask the teacher to resign. If the teacher refuses, then the school district needs to take their case to the State Board of Education for dismissal recommendation. If they fail, then they need to reassign this teacher to a different school. The teacher has completely devastated the culture of that school and if the school district does not take the appropriate steps it will look as though the school district supports racist teachers.
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012
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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
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