West Contra Costa Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Chris Hurst issued a statement today regarding the firing of a Black substitute teacher seen on video physically attacking a student who called him a racial slur at Richmond High on Monday, Jan. 23.
The incident prompted a peaceful protest on campus Tuesday by students in opposition to use of the racial slur, which was reportedly the N-word, according to KTVU. The substitute was seen “grabbing the student” who used the racial slur, “throwing him to the floor,” and forcibly removing him from the classroom, said the news agency. Richmond police are investigating the case as a possible misdemeanor battery, KTVU added.
Dr. Hurst’s full statement on the incident follows:
Dear WCCUSD Community,
I want to echo our community’s concern regarding the incident that occurred in a classroom at Richmond High School on Monday, January 23, in which a student used a racial slur toward a staff member and that staff member responded by physically assaulting the student. I would like to share our immediate response to the incident and also share our commitment to addressing the underlying issues that this incident has laid bare.
On behalf of the West Contra Costa Unified School District, I strongly condemn the use of any racial slurs or harmful language, as well as the use of physical violence. Schools must be psychologically and physically safe in order for students to learn and for educators to teach.
Physical violence by an adult is never an appropriate response to a child. Furthermore, acts of violence are deeply harmful to all present in a learning environment. We also know that racial slurs are deeply harmful to students and staff, and we are committed to restoring a learning environment that affirms the inherent dignity and worth of all members of our community.
We are fully investigating Monday’s incident, and staff are following up to ensure that there are appropriate administrative responses for all involved. I can confirm that the staff member involved in Monday’s incident was immediately released from employment with WCCUSD. While we do not discuss matters of student discipline, I can also confirm that staff are following up with the student and their family in order to ensure an appropriate response and necessary support. We are responsible for supporting the growth and development of all WCCUSD students, including after any transgression.
As a school community, and as a learning institution, we are committed to the safety and wellbeing of all students and staff. This includes listening to the voices of our Black students and educators who have shared their experiences in the wake of Monday’s incident. In addition to providing immediate and continuous mental health support to Richmond High School students, school and district staff have worked with the RHS Black Student Union in order to support student-led activism and organizing regarding the use of racial slurs and the treatment of Black students and teachers at Richmond High School.
As Superintendent, I am committed to ensuring that our district follows the lead of our young people and listens deeply to our educators.
Specifically, we are moving up our timeline to engage the community – including our teachers, all employees, families, and students – in developing our equity statement, as well as our stances on anti-racism and what we will not tolerate. We strongly support the call to action from our Black Student Union at Richmond High School to stop using the “N” word, and we commit to actively aid our student leaders in this campaign
We will ensure that the important organizing work of the Richmond High community will be met by support, resources, and action in order to create systemic and sustained change.
Kenneth Chris Hurst, Ed.D