A Florida teacher was disciplined after using the N-word during a classroom discussion that touched on racial slurs. Video from the exchange was circulated via Snapchat, leaving students, parents, and the local NAACP outraged by its content.
According to local NPR affiliate, WUFT, 56-year-old Robert Cecil is an English teacher at F.W. Buccholz High School in Gainesville, Florida. On February 12, he was recorded in a 12-second clip saying, “If you’re Black, you can say ‘n***a’, but you don’t say ‘n****r, ‘cause that’s like …”
A Black male student counters his statement with, “We can say it.” To which Cecil responds, “It’s a free country, freedom of speech, right?”
The context of the conversation is hard to pin down given the brevity of the clip but in an emailed statement to WUFT News, Cecil offers an apology while trying to explain his reasoning for using the word.
“First of all, I would like to apologize for all the viewers that have been harmed or offended by this video,” Cecil begins. “The irony, however, is inescapable. I detest the N-word more than any other word in the English language. It represents the greatest sin of our country when we enslaved other human beings.”
Cecil goes on to admonish the casual way in which the word is used among subsections of the population, and said that he was making a “short parody” about those who believe that their use of the word is protected by their First Amendment rights.
He also added that the video edited out his disapproval of the word “and its attendant racist connotations.” “I’ve been teaching children of all ethnic backgrounds for 16 years,” Cecil continued, “and I hope that this service will not be terminated by a 10-second, badly edited video.”
The incident in the classroom was brought up during a school board meeting last Tuesday. At the time Alachua County Public Schools officials refused to comment on the situation, citing an ongoing investigation into the matter.