White teacher told black student to call him 'master' - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

White teacher told black student to call him 'master'

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) - A Des Moines Roosevelt High School senior says his white teacher said to call him "master," and some in eastern Iowa are talking about it.

Jabre White says his teacher told the class to go to another room to take a final exam. White replied, "Yes, sir," to the teacher.


That's when the teacher fired back, "You meant to say, 'yes, sir, master?'"

“I don't think the teacher necessary meant harm by it, but he's got more work to do,” said Iowa City resident Connie Haneline.

Haneline and her soon-to-be 8th grade son Kenny, who is black, says they've dealt with racial slurs from time to time in the Iowa City area, but not at school.

“He was called an ant because he was small and black,” said Haneline.

She teaches her son how to react in situations like the one in Des Moines. At times, she says he needs to speak up, other times he just has to let it roll.

"I think we need to be able to see each other as this same kind of person," said Kenny Haneline. "We all have our own different personalities. You just have to treat them how you want to be treated."

Others we spoke with weren't as forgiving.

“Coming from a position of authority is not something that needs to be joked about, especially with a student of color,” said Reggie Ross.

Ross is in a biracial relationship and says this situation presents the perfect opportunity to talk about racial disparity.

“It would be nice to just address it,” said Ross. “How do you think race plays a factor in the school system? How do you think race plays a factor in the community in which we live? How does race play a factor to anyone in that classroom?”

Kameron Burnett says the teacher should be disciplined.

“That's disrespectful; you shouldn't even be working,” said Burnett. “Me, growing up as a white person, I’m always around black people. I can’t be disrespectful to my friends -- they take it differently.”

As for Kenny and his mom, she admits the teacher's words are demeaning and downright shameful, but believes the teacher shouldn't be fired.

"I don't think he should be fired. If we were all fired for something we said, none of us would have jobs,” said Haneline. “It was a really immature thing to say and hurtful, and people don't realize how much power their words can have.”

When it comes to situations like the one in Des Moines, the Iowa City school district says it hasn't had any teacher-student racial complaints filed during the 2013-14 school year.

Public affairs officials at Des Moines School District says the situation is a public matter, and according to Iowa law disciplinary records are confidential.

“An employee found to be in violation of that policy will face discipline,” wrote Phil Roeder, director of communications & public affairs. “In this case, the leadership at Roosevelt High School immediately investigated the matter, took quick and appropriate action with the teacher, and the teacher has apologized. No one is making any excuses for what was said, which was wrong in any and every way you look at it.”

KWWL has learned that the teacher still has his job.

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