Fired for Word 'Negro': Spanish Teacher Claims She Used Spanish Word for 'Black'

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(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)An empty classroom is seen in this undated file photo.

A teacher has been fired for using the word "negro," and she is now filing a lawsuit against the school saying that her use of the word was not in a racial context, but was purely educational.

The teacher, 65-year-old Petrona Smith, taught Spanish at Bronx school PS 211, but was fired in March 2012 after a seventh-grader reported the alleged insult, which surrounded the teacher's use of the word "negro."

Smith, who herself is black and a native of the West Indies, has since said that things have been lost in translation, and that she was simply using the Spanish word for the color "black" at the time.

Smith has claimed that she used the word "negro" during a Spanish class on colors; "negro" of course being the Spanish word for "black."

However, one of the pupils was left shocked at hearing the word from the teacher, and they later reported her to school authorities saying she had used a racial slur in class.

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

Reports have also highlighted that Smith is also accused of calling some of her students "failures." However, in her lawsuit Smith again says this has been taken out of context.

She claims that she asked a number of students who failed a test to move to the back of the classroom. However, she adamantly denies calling them "failures."

In relation to the lawsuit, a spokeswoman for the city Law Department has told the New York Post: "We have received the papers and will review them."

No further response or details were offered at this time.

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