An Oregon school district employee has resigned after reprimanding a noisy group of students, telling them they were lucky they weren’t “picking cotton,” officials said.
The unidentified North Clackamas School District instructional assistant made the remark on May 31 to the group of students at Linwood Elementary School in Milwaukie.
One parent of a girl in the group — who were mostly children of color, according to the mother — had previously called for the female worker to be fired.
“It was just really devastating,” Syreeta Spencer told KGW earlier this month.
Spencer said the employee made the comment as she monitored students at lunch and recess. Spencer’s 11-year-old biracial daughter, Jasmyn, told the station she felt “sad and targeted” after the incident.
“The teacher was like, ‘You’re lucky I’m not making you pick cotton and clean my house and stuff like that,’” the girl recalled.
The school’s principal told parents in a letter that the instructional assistant who made the “inappropriate racialized comments” was no longer employed by the district. She had been placed on leave days after the incident.
“We know and understand that the impact of words spoken can be hurtful for our students and that was the case in this situation,” read the letter, which was obtained by KGW. “I deeply regret this impact and will continue to work with our students and school community to make sure they are heard and feel supported.”
Attempts to reach Spencer on Wednesday were unsuccessful, but she told The Oregonian she hopes a school-hosted symposium on issues relating to minority students will better address the woman’s comments rather than a statement confirming she was fired.
“It’s so much deeper than that,” Spencer told the newspaper. “I was hoping this would bring up dialogue and some empathy. I don’t know why [the employee] felt comfortable saying that in the first place.”
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