OPS: Omaha middle school staff heard using ‘inappropriate language’
A Beveridge Middle School student and her mother said the staffer told them she misheard.
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The superintendent of Omaha Public Schools met with a middle-schooler’s family Wednesday morning to talk over a situation the district said happened this week.
“This is not acceptable, and if we can be the spark that ignites a journey,” mother Patricia Coleman Ansari told 6 News after the meeting.
A student at Beveridge Middle School said she heard an OPS staffer there use a racial slur, and the accusation drew the attention of the school district’s top leadership.
“So I was walking in the hallway, and he was talking to my friend who got expelled yesterday and saying the N-word... He was like, ‘These N-word was so annoying,’ ” seventh-grader Jael Brown told 6 News.
Jael said that after she heard a staffer say that word, she was taken out of class early to talk to that staffer.
“He was like, ‘You know,’ he said, ‘I think you heard stuff wrong. And, you know, I didn’t say that,’ ... to get me on his side,” she said.
The staff member later called Jael’s mom, who said the staffer said her daughter must have misheard or misunderstood him.
“He went into telling a story about how he walked up on a few girls, which was one of my daughters, and they were using the N-word, and... he said he never uses the N-word, and this is not a place to use the N-word,” Coleman Ansari said.
Student families and staff at the school were notified of the two offending incidents in a letter sent by Principal Tiffany Molina on Tuesday, according to an email from an OPS spokeswoman.
“In one, a student said they overheard a conversation among staff using inappropriate language. In the other, unrelated situation, a staff member repeated the offensive language when guiding students on the use of good judgement [sic],” the letter states.
OPS Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Logan met with Coleman Ansari at the school district’s Teacher Administration Center on Cuming Street “to discuss the matter with them directly,” the OPS email states.
The district said that they acted immediately to investigate, but that “privacy concers limit the information we can offer.”
Read the letter sent to families
Dear Beveridge Middle Staff and Families,
A safe, welcoming environment at Beveridge Middle is always our priority. We care deeply about our students and staff.
This week, we received two separate reports of staff potentially using offensive and inappropriate language. In one, a student said they overheard a conversation among staff using inappropriate language. In the other, unrelated situation, a staff member repeated the offensive language when guiding students on the use of good judgement.
In both situations, we acted immediately to investigate. We take this most seriously. We value an open and inclusive community and are working to understand what occurred.
Our school shares this message to ensure open communication with our families. Privacy concerns limit the information we can offer, but please call the school at 531-299-2280 if you need to talk with our administration.
Thank you for your continued support of Beveridge Middle and Omaha Public Schools.
Tiffany Molina Principal
Coleman Ansari said she wasn’t 100% satisfied with the meeting because she wants to see progress first.
“I got to see something made,” she said. “Something got to be in stone, something really got to make a change first before I can see that you’re serious.”
She said was pleased with words of encouragement from OPS leadership, but is hoping for more.
“I look forward to him being reprimanded at the highest cost that way it will send a message and make him accountable for the things that he’s done,” Coleman Ansari said.
She said she’s upset at now having to teach her daughter the same lessons she had to learn years ago.
“And so my daughter is getting it first-hand, at 12 years old, about racism. And so I have to have a talk with her about racism,” Coleman Ansari said.
She didn’t know where to go for help, so she eventually reached out to Sherman Wells, the co-founder of Untamed who has been a leader in the north Omaha community for years. The organization is working toward the betterment of the Black community, bringing grassroots organizations together.
“Before that, we were just all over the city doing different stuff behind the scenes, like underground rappers basically,” he said.
For Wells, helping others is a calling; he wants to give people who need help in the community the kind of help he couldn’t find while growing up.
“I was the abused kid you know I was the one who got made fun of in school and all the bullying. So I wanted to be somebody that people like me as a kid didn’t have,” he said.
Wells helped Jael and her mom discuss with OPS leadership the issues her daughter was having with a staff member in school.
He has been giving a voice to a community of people who don’t believe they are being heard.
“They have the voice; they just think they don’t,” he said. “So all we do is point out to them what they already have inside, which is the voice to speak up and talk for yourself and defend yourself.”
Digital Director Gina Dvorak contributed to this report.
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