FILE - In this Oct. 17, 2019, file photo, Marlon Anderson poses for a photo in Madison, Wis. A Wisconsin school district is rehiring Anderson, a security guard after he was fired last week for repeating a racial slur while telling a student not to use it, a union official said Monday, Oct. 21. (Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)
Steve Apps—AP
By Madeleine Carlisle
October 22, 2019

Marlon Anderson, a high school security guard in Madison, Wis., who was fired for using the n-word when telling a student not to use it, will get his job back.

“I’m back!” Anderson posted on Facebook Monday evening. “While at work today at Boys & Girls Clubs, I learned from the Madison Teachers Union President that School Supt. Jane Belmore has rescinded the decision of my termination… Thank you to the 1,000 plus students for allowing your voices to be heard and to all the people from across the globe for reaching out to my family… Now we have to address the policy!”

A statement from the Madison Teacher Inc. (MTI), the union that represents teachers and other district employees, said in a statement that Anderson “will be returned to pay status immediately, including full benefits,” and “The district will continue Mr. Anderson on paid leave while a transition plan is finalized to return him to work.”

“MTI is pleased to see the district rescind the termination of Marlon Anderson, paving the way for him to return to the incredible work he does with Madison’s students. We now look forward to working with the District to review and address its zero tolerance policy”, said MTI Executive Director Doug Keillor, in a statement.

Forty-eight-year-old Anderson said he used the racial slur on Oct. 9 when responding to a student who called him a number of obscenities, including the n-word, and tried to explain to the student why the term was offensive. The Madison School District has a zero-tolerance policy on employees using racial slurs, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

“I just don’t understand getting fired for trying to defend yourself,” Anderson had said in an interview with the Journal. “As a black man, I have a right not to be called that word.” Anderson told the Journal that he told the student multiple times “do not call me that,” “do not call me that word,” and “do not call me a N-word,” using the slur during the confrontation.

He was fired for using the word a week later. Anderson posted about his firing on Oct. 16.

 

Anderson’s story soon gained traction online, drawing outrage from members of the Madison community and even prominent politicians like the singer Cher. Students held a walk out protest in support of Anderson last week. More than 15,000 people have signed a Change.com petition in support of Anderson and a GoFundMe raised $12,483 to support him and his family.

On Oct. 21, Madison Teacher’s Inc. filed a grievance with the school district over Anderson’s firing.

Shortly before the decision to rescind Anderson’s firing was announced, School Board President Gloria Reyes said in a statement that she requested the superintendent rescind the firing.

“I have requested that the superintendent review the current situation regarding the use of racial slurs in school and rescind the termination,” she said in the statement. “Going forward, we will review our practice and we remain dedicated to protecting our students and staff from harm by implementing practices that are reflective of the humanity involved. We will grapple with complexity and assess it through a lens of deep racial equity.”

In a statement, Belmore said, “I want to be very clear that as we go forward, we will keep students at the center. Our commitment to anti-racism and to use the input from community, especially our students is unwavering. I look forward to continued conversations on how to support our students and our staff. Thank you for your commitment to the deep work on equity which is the right work for us.”

Write to Madeleine Carlisle at madeleine.carlisle@time.com.

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