An Oklahoma special needs student’s parents say their son’s fifth-grade teacher encouraged students to use an anti-gay slur directed at their son when he was roughhousing with another boy.
Amber and Jonathon Stepp, of Talihina, Oklahoma, say their son came home from school to ask his dad what the slur meant, to which Jonathon responded that ‘we don’t use those words.’ He then explained the meaning of the slur and the 11-year-old started crying.
“He asked me, ‘Daddy, why would you call me that?’” Jonathon told Fort Smith, Arkansas-based CBS affiliate KFSM. “I didn’t have an answer for my son.”
Their son said he had been wrestling and roughhousing with another boy, and that the teacher had encouraged the other student to use the slur against him.
The Stepps had more questions about the incident, so they went to the Talihina Elementary School principal, the superintendent, and the teacher for answers.
Amber Stepp says she recorded a phone conversation with the teacher in question, playing the recording for KFSM.
In the recording, the teacher is heard saying, “Two of the boys were wrestling with each other, and one of them started yelling, saying, ‘He’s touching me, he’s touching me,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, when he does that, yell “f** alert.”‘”
The Stepps say they were shocked by the teacher’s behavior.
“I never expected it to happen to anyone, let alone my own child,” Jonathon Stepp said. “I’m supposed to trust this professional to teach my son positive things, not hatred.”
KFSM confirmed that the Talihina Public School District launched an investigation, during which the Stepps’ son was sent home and could not receive the special ed services he requires.
In a statement, the school district claimed it had taken “appropriate action.”
“Talihina Public Schools values and takes student and employee safety very seriously. We have received this complaint and, in response, have completed an investigation and taken appropriate action,” the statement reads. “This teacher does remain employed in our school district. We cannot comment further as this involves confidential personnel and confidential student information.”
Amber Stepp said her son was then told to either return to the same classroom, or the option of an all-girl classroom. They school’s fifth grade is the only grade that separates students by their gender.
“It’s completely inappropriate to expect a child that’s been bullied by the teacher to return to that classroom, and completely inappropriate to put him in the middle of an all-girl classroom,” she said. “I feel like the school has completely failed all the children that has been affected by this.”
The Stepps added that they have reached out to the Oklahoma Department of Education and are waiting for it to complete its investigation.
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