Spanish Teacher Fired for Using the Word ‘Negro’

    May 24, 2013
    Josh Wolford
    Comments are off for this post.

Talk about getting lost in translation.

A Bronx teacher claims that she was fired for using the word “negro” in reference to a student. I must admit, it sounds reasonable at first – except for the fact that the teacher in question was teaching a lesson in Spanish.

65-year-old Petrona Smith, formerly a teacher at bilingual PS 211, says that she was instructing her students on how to say colors in Spanish. “Negro,” of course, is Spanish for “black.” She claims that she was fired after a seventh-grader reported the incident. Smith is black, and a West Indies native. She has filed a lawsuit over the firing.

“They haven’t even accounted for how absurd it is for someone who’s black to be using a racial slur to a student,” Shaun Reid, Smith’s attorney, told the NY Post. “Talk about context! There’s a lot of things wrong here.”

Smith even claims that she differentiated between “negro” (black) and the Spanish word for black person, “moreno.”

According to court documents, Smith was also accused of calling some students “failures,” but she says that this is also untrue. Apparently, she asked students who had failed a test to move to the back of the classroom.

In fact, Smith claims that the slurs were coming in the other direction. The Post notes that she reports being called a “f*cking monkey” and a “n*gger.”

As of now, facts in the case are pretty one-sided. A spokesperson from the city told The Post that they will review the papers – but that’s all they had to say.

  • kimdi01

    This just goes to show you how IGNORANT the management of the government school system happens to be. Your tax dollars at work!

    • david

      It was in a Foreign Language class. If Black in Spanish is Negro then MAYBE we need to have the Spanish Population Change the word to “GET SOME COMMON SENSE”. So what you are also telling me is we can’t even teach many words due to they might offend someone. Another example of a Class not being educated fully.

      • frank

        lol yea, maybe they just want to let the left wingers invade spain and change their dictionaries~ LOOOL

    • Chris

      Apparently u didnt read the whole article

      “According to court documents, Smith was also accused of calling some students “failures,” but she says that this is also untrue. Apparently, she asked students who had failed a test to move to the back of the classroom.”

      there is more to the story than just the use of one word

      • http://webpronewslife fire

        Apparently you need to get a life and quit being so quit being so sensitive over words. If a person is a failure then a person is a failure. African American when you weren’t born in Africa, They are Negros, Period. If you want to be offended by something how about Human beings. They, of all creatures the worse. Litter, swear, talk, immoral characters, sexual immortal, greedy, destroyers of the World just to name a few. Now you want words of definitions changed because they are offensive.

  • http://webpronews/life Larry Leach

    We are becoming so politically correct it is stupid. Firing a Spanish teacher for using Negro is insane. I am African American and the student that felt insulted and reported it should be counseled on common sense

    • Farrah

      I agree thoroughly!!! It’s sad what our world has come to.

    • Cia

      I agree with you. Along with “colored” it is rather archaic now but unless the Negro College Fund along with the NAACP change their names because the words are now considered as racist as the “N” word and to be more politically correct, this teacher did nothing wrong.

  • MarcusDude

    Are those school administrators on drugs?

    • Farrah

      I wonder the same thing.

  • MarcusDude

    Are those school administrators on drugs?

    • Kara

      I think you are, posting the same thing three times.

      • mike

        Kara…they repeat each other because they are on drugs

  • MarcusDude

    Are those school administrators on drugs? Ellos tienen tus capesas en tus culos.

  • http://yahoo JOE

    have you ever heard off united negro college or American negro college they use that word also

    • Farrah

      This is the epitome of hypocrisy. RIDICULOUS!!!

  • Liberty Valance

    Since when has the word “Negro”, in reference to the dark-skinned, become offensive?

    • TaranceK

      It is offensive to people who hate the color of their skin, and have shame about their race.

      Whites certainly don’t get offended by the word “Caucasian”.

  • TaranceK

    Negro is the Spanish word for “black”. Anyone who hates hearing the word in this context is just filled with self hatred and self loathing. GET OVER IT.

  • bonnie

    Also, “Negro” is to black people like “Caucasian” is to white people. It refers to race and is NOT a slur.

  • Ken

    The spanish word for black IS “negro”. And the spanish word for the administration of the NY public schools, where 80% of those who manage to graduate can’t read beyond the fifth grade level, is “estupido”. These politically correct fashists have taken over our public school system and are indoctrinating rather than educating. Is the black spanish teacher the racist here or is it the oh so proper administration. Anyone remeber the uproar over “niggardly” which means tight fisted? Same-o, same-o. Ignorance over intelligence.

  • Isa

    Not to mention a black teacher… How retarded can you get?

  • Oliver

    The spanish word negro is pronounced “neygro” if she made that distinction there shouldn’t have been a problem.

    • Ken

      Well, spanish expert, did she? Oh yeah, you don’t know but you are willing to give the ignorant admin the benefit of the doubt. Just another “useful idiot”, huh?

    • Mary Davis

      Oliver–I am glad you clarified this. I think this teacher has a very good chance here of making her case. I sincerely hope so.

  • shining genji

    Spanish is a racist language. everybody knows that.

  • Ken

    Wow! Even the politically correct dolts at Yahoo blocked the “bad part” of niggardly. See what I mean?

  • BabsinFL

    Shoot first – ask questions later? Heaven forbid anyone should investigate this before they report on this. Right?

  • http://yahoo joe

    fuckin Lincoln ruined it for everyone. A colored teaching our kids next thing your gone tell me is they get to vote.

  • Caligula

    Can I fire my Spanish teacher for using the word “blanco”? I was offended! Even though technically I’m Hispanic, I was still offended.

    • Tim

      Did she call you white? I mean blanco?

  • http://juno The Law

    This is ridiculous. First of all, what are you telling the little girl that reported it? You’re reinforcing in her mind that the word “negro” is derogatory? The funny thing is, she probably hears her friends throw around the real “N” word very cavalierly in casual conversation, yet she’s going to be offended by what a word that has traditionally been used to describe people of the black race? In fact, as a small child the first thing I remember being referred to was a negro; I became “black” in about the third grade. So, the district is just perpetuating ignorance instead of focusing on their supposed mission, to educate.

    • Ken


  • http://yahoo.com louise ross

    I know that blacks cause more problems for this country than any other race. negro is ok. nigar is not ok.

    • Ken

      Did you misspell that to get past the Yahoo censors or are you just another product of public schooling??

  • Dr RGP

    This teacher’s lawsuit is exactly the right idea.

  • rsc45

    And our collective anal retentive sphincter closes yet tighter.

  • http://yahoo.com Marquita Hawkins

    Well I am an African American, and yes ‘negro’ means black in spanish and yes it’s crazy to fire that teacher, but no one was there to hear the whole side.How was the word use, and how was it directed.You have to listen to both sides not just the student cause students over do it and teachers tend to over do it these days also. What I am saying is please be fair.GOOD LUCK

    • Ken

      Negro is a scientifically correct identifier of a racial group, just like caucasian or asian. Should we hold a meeting of the department heads to determine if anyone is offended by any of these words before we teach sociology, biology, etc? If the kid was offended by “negro” then that is an indication of the failure of the administration to create a learning experience where she knows the difference between a spanish color, a racial identifier and a personal slur. Would you prefer that we change the spanish color to “africano-americano”?

  • Pearl

    Very strange story, it can not be true? They have United Negro College of America, I think there has to be more to this story.

  • Nick Quattro

    So I guess we can’t talk about “Spic-and-Span”, a “Chink” in the armor, “Indian Summer”, “Flip” a hamburger, “Sour-Kraut”, don’t refer to oldies music as “Doo-WOP” or admit you have a pet “GUINEA Pig”. Looks like that’s where we’re going. And make sure your 5 year-old in Kindergarten doesn’t hold up a pencil and make Gun sounds, he’ll get expelled!! Jeeze!

  • Kara

    “They haven’t even accounted for how absurd it is for someone who’s black to be using a racial slur to a student,”
    Ah, so black people can’t be racist.

  • Norman Harris

    This is simply an asinine personal decision by an administrator based on an ignorance based report. The word Negro with a different pronunciation is simply a part of the Spanish language. If a Spanish teacher may not teach part of the language, then the school needs to drop Spanish from its curriculum. I hate empowered ignorance. If this teacher is a member of a union, that union should file a grievance with the administrators and the school board. If that process cannot or does not work, she should be able to file a civil suit for wrongful termination.

  • Wayne

    another good example of the inmates running asylum…

  • Pamela

    There’s got to be more to this than using the word “negro.” If the school officials are that ignorant and do not know that “negro” is Spanish word for the color black, then they need more education. I am a Black woman with a very good high school education and I know that “negro” is the Spanish word for the color “black.” I have a teenage son and as they get older, they start “fabricating” stories (politically correct) or flat out LYING (no so politically correct). So take this with a grain of salt until you hear the entire story. I betcha the teacher will be cleared…unless someone else can confirm the student’s story.

  • tommy tootone

    Absurd! B.S. Can’t be true. Give me a break!

  • Chris

    I seriously doubt she was fired over just this. Sad how many people past judgement without even hearing the whole story.

  • Joe

    For saying Negro? That’s what they are! Negro is the proper term for the ethnic group of black people whose origin is Africa and is more accurate than calling them African-American. I have a friend from South Africa who is white as snow, but he could rightfully be called an African-American and that doesn’t seem to fit. In fact, the word nigger is only a bad pronounciation of the Latin word that means black. We have to stop kissing up to so many minorities just because they get their feelings hurt about a word in the English language or are uncomfortable about who and what they are. When I got hurt during my little league baseball games, my coach just said, “walk it off.” I think it’s time we told blacks who get their feelings, or Muslims who get their feelings hurt about the display of a cross or the smell of barbecue pork, “hey, if you got your feelings hurt, shut up and walk it off.”

    • V

      Actually, the teacher was not referencing any person, Negro in spanish is the word for black, so of course someone heard it and immediately flipped out. This was a SPANISH CLASS, being taught these words are BASIC

    • jennifer Olszewski

      Very well said!

  • Cathy

    If this story is true as reported, I sincerely hope that the teacher sues the admittedly incompetent New York City school system for about 2 million dollars and WINS every bit of it. It will serve the abusive and ignorant people who fired her right.

  • Robert

    In my youth I dreamed of being a teacher…luckily they started laying off teachers half way through my time in college so I switched to Electrical Engineering. After hearing stories like this and what other teachers tell me of horror stories of being blackmailed for grades by students, lack of parental involvement, no support for teachers by upper school board members, incompetent adminsistrators, etc……I think I made the right career choice.

    • Gloria

      I have been told numerous times that I would be a good teacher. The way schools are today, there is no way I would set foot in one.

  • dre

    Nigar-negro one in the same this from a black man just don’t call me a honky oops my bad

  • tombreyfogle@yahoo.com

    This is dumb beyond belief. Anyone who has had Spanish can remember that Negro is the Spanish word for the color “black.”

  • Recess

    You can’t fire me..I’m retired. The kid is an oxymoron.

  • V

    Honestly, If I had to take a guess in the matter, then I’m just betting that the students just wanted to get rid of that particular teacher. With the way the world is setup nowdays, you say the wrong word to the wrong person and it gets to the public then everything blows up….for like a week or two anyways. Ever notice that? Someone makes a racial remark and normally about 2 or 3 weeks later the entire incident is completely forgotten, but during the first week everyone comes out of the woodwork to complain about it.