NJ District to Fight Ruling That OK’d Teacher’s Use of N-Word in Class
PENNS GROVE — The Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional School district is vowing to fight an arbitration decision that saved the job of a science teacher accused of using a racial slur in front of 7th grade students.
"The Board and the Administration are outraged by the Arbitrator’s ruling," schools Superintendent Zenaida Cobian said in a statement Wednesday, a day after the district learned of the decision, which was first reported by New Jersey 101.5.
In the decision issued last month, the arbitrator found that Bruce Bassetti did in fact use the N-word in class, despite his denials. But the arbitrator also concluded that it was inappropriate for the district to fire Bassetti because he only muttered it under his breath and he found no evidence that Bassetti, who admitted to using the slur years ago, is racist.
Several students testified in arbitration hearings and told district investigators that they heard Bassetti softly say something to the effect of “I’m done with these n-----s” or “I’m not trying to deal with these n-----s,” after he confronted a student who was resisting directions in class last school year. He was suspended with pay before the district filed tenure charges to fire him.
The district's response on Wednesday criticized arbitrator Peter Adomeit's reasoning, saying the use of the word by a teacher "is toxic, intolerable and has no place in our district."
"Rather than recognizing this conduct as utterly unacceptable, the Arbitrator ruled that Mr. Basetti’s use of the 'n word' was not unbecoming conduct and did not warrant any discipline – much less his termination," the statement said. "In fact, the Arbitrator went out of his way to try to explain away Mr. Basetti’s inappropriate conduct, reasoning that because the 'n-word' was uttered under provocation and under his breath, Mr. Basetti did not have any racist intent."
The district also found fault with the arbitrator's suggestion that black officials might not be able to fairly judge situations involving the racial slur.
"Equally troubling was the Arbitrator’s finding that an African American Administrator was 'so deeply and emotionally' affected by Mr. Basetti’s use of the 'n-word' that he was incapable of conducting the investigation into the racially charged comment that Mr. Basetti was found to have made," the district said Wednesday.
"Notwithstanding the Arbitrator’s decision, the Board and Administration stand by our position that use of any racial epithet or slur, such as the 'n-word,' by a teacher towards, about or in the presence of students anywhere, but especially in the classroom, is toxic, intolerable and has no place in our District.
"The Board utterly and completely disagrees with the Arbitrator’s conclusion that Mr. Basetti’s conduct did not harm students or the public trust. Such a conclusion fundamentally misunderstands the weight of a teacher’s words.
"In the lives of our students, a teacher is a trusted individual whom students should be able to look up to as an example of the open-minded, tolerant and compassionate citizens we want them to become. By engaging in this conduct, Mr. Basetti has – despite the Arbitrator’s ruling – violated that trust. As such, the Board will be appealing this decision."
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email email@example.com.