Madison high school students protest decision to fire security guard over racial slur
Students from Madison West High School walked one-and-a-half miles from the school to school district offices Friday morning in support of a black security guard at the school who was recently fired.
The former security guard, Marlon Anderson, said he was fired after a black student used a racial slur against him, and he repeated the word when he told the teen not to use it.
Hundreds of students - as well as dozens of West High teachers and staff - walked from the high school on Regent Street to the Madison Metropolitan School District's Doyle Administration Building on Dayton Street near the Kohl Center.
Madison Metropolitan School District officials said they have a zero tolerance policy for employees saying racial slurs. But Marlon Anderson says he was just trying to defend himself, after a disruptive student unleashed a number of obscenities.
Protesters on Friday called school officials to reexamine the tolerance policy, which they say can be unfair to minorities.
During the walkout Friday, Noah Anderson, son of Marlon Anderson and the President of the West Black Student Union at West High School, said that there is a big difference between a slur and a statement.
“A slur is directed towards somebody to be derogatory. What my father did was he told, he took a teaching moment as an African-American male to a younger African-American male why he shouldn’t use the word and why to not refer to himself that way,” Noah said.
Noah says the walkout is the beginning of an effort to make the community more inclusive.
“There has been tension in the MMSD for a while, and my dad [Marlon] just had to be a sacrifice for it. We’re going to get it fixed - especially with all the support that we see,” Noah said.
“We started with what we want as students and that we want our voices to be heard. Anytime you make any type of decision and that they need to go into the communities - anytime they make a decision that affect a certain group of people,” Noah said.
Claudia Mena, a West High student and one of the organizers of the protest, said the purpose of the walkout was not only to get Anderson's job back.
“We’ve seen a lot of racism not just at West [High School] but all around Madison. And so this is really starting to say that racism needs to end in Madison,” Mena said.
Mena says the walkout was organized through social media.
“A lot of people started posting on social media about how it was really unfair. And so I run the West student account and so I decided to start a protest on there - because a lot of people were asking me, saying we should do something else, instead of just posting on social media. I agreed,” Mena said.
Madison Teachers Inc., a union representing teachers and staff, is filing a grievance on behalf of Anderson.
There will be an hearing date set within a few weeks as the grievance process moves forward, according to MTI executive director Doug Keillor.
Also on Friday, the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County said it has
as their new Director of Program Operations. His first day on the job is Monday, and the position will be available until Anderson can get his old job back.
The musician Cher also
on social media to pay for any legal bills he may acquire, if he and the teachers union goes to court with the school district.
has also been started to raise awareness and help get Anderson's job back.
The Black Student Union at Madison West High is hoping to connect with other area high schools and get the conversation started. The BSU has also invited a school board member to be in attendance at their meetings next week.