Rosita Wilson, a substitute teacher of Chinese heritage, was scheduled for one day at Harris Academy Benson in Shirley, West Midlands, U.K. The moment she set foot inside the classroom, she heard some of the students calling her racial slurs.
“When I entered the classroom full of year 5 pupils I had never met before, I saw and heard a group of five pupils notice me and refer to my appearance and race by shouting ‘chinky’ and ‘Chinese’,” Wilson told reporters. “This went on for three times before another pupil was heard shouting ‘oh that is rude’ and another shouting ‘that is racist’.
Inspired by what had just happened, she thought she could use the incident as a teaching example. “I was glad to hear some had recognised the racist and rude effect it had on me and thought I’d highlight how it was inappropriate.”
“I asked how they would feel and that if they did that when they were older and were going for a job, then they would not get the job because racist comments are not acceptable,” she said.
Wilson continued to teach her scheduled lessons and class resumed as normal. Halfway through the day, however, she was called down to the principal’s office and promptly asked to leave, as she was told that her behavior was “not acceptable”.
A spokeswoman for the school said of the incident:
“This individual was engaged as a supply teacher through an agency for a single day. Unfortunately her behaviour with our children was found to be unacceptable and she was asked to leave before completing the day. Any form of racism is taken very seriously in our schools. Our academy is in a very diverse area of London and our staff and students come from a wide range of backgrounds.”
As for Wilson’s account of events, the school has said they refute her statements, saying that there were two other teachers with her in the room at the time who relayed that nothing racial had been said. However, when asked what was so unacceptable about Wilson’s behavior, the school declined to comment.
Wilson said she was just trying to teach the children about racism and how such slurs were not okay. “The head teacher said if I had known the difficult and poor backgrounds that the children came from that I would understand that racism is excused and that they can’t help it,” she said.
“When I said the children did understand because some recognised that it was rude and racist, she just replied that I made a big issue out of nothing.”
Now, the organization Wilson works for is launching their own investigation to determine what happened.
”Engage Education have worked with the Harris Federation for a number of years and have never encountered concerns of this kind before,” a spokesman said. “We always listen to the feedback and concerns of our candidates and ensure their wellbeing is taken seriously. We are currently looking into this matter.”