ABC 13 News Now

Pending an internal human resources investigation, a high school history teacher has been placed on administrative leave at Heritage High School in Newport News, Virginia after allegedly using a racial epithet during a classroom discussion about stereotypes, WTKR 3 reports.

Lynn Pierce's U.S. history class was recently discussing the name of the Washington NFL franchise when the remarks were made.

WTKR spoke with Pierce off camera:

Pierce told us she was doing a lesson on Native Americans, and a student asked her 'What's the big deal with calling them Redskins?'—referring to the football team.

Using the team as an example, Pierce told NewsChannel 3 that she tried explaining why it's inappropriate to use prejudicial and stereotypical names about any racial group.

She then said, "What would you think if someone started a team called the Newport News N****rs?"

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In a  call with FUSION, Michelle Price, Heritage High School's director of public information, confirmed that a teacher was under investigation for comments made in the classroom after several students made complaints, but since it is ongoing, she could not confirm the teacher's name. She said the school's response was standard operating procedure.

"Anytime there is an allegation like that an employee is placed on administrative leave pending an investigation," Price said.

Price told me that the HR investigator would review statements provided by "anyone who heard the comments" and see whether "the conduct violate[s] the school board’s staff conduct policy."

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"If it’s found that the allegation is unfounded then that employee can return to work," she said. However, if the reports are genuine, Pierce faces disciplinary action.

Price informed me that teacher in question, who WTKR reports has worked at the school for over 40 years, is white and the group of high school juniors and seniors present at the time ("about 24, 25 kids") is predominantly black. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports it was an A.P. U.S. History course.

According to the most recent census data available, more than 41% of Newport News' population is African-American.

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ABC 13 News Now reports that a former student, who is black, does not agree with the school's decision to suspend Pierce.

"It's not what you think it is, she's not a bad person," said Juslena Williams, a 2011 alum of Heritage High School. "I'm not offended by anything Mrs. Pierce teaches or said."

…

"Honestly, in every day life as an African American, there are people that use this word to greet one another, but as soon as someone uses it in terms of expressing themselves, people get offended," Williams added.

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ABC 13 reports that Williams has started a petition that already has hundreds of signers. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and skip The Blaze's comment section for this one.

David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on Fusion.net—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: david.matthews@fusion.net