Houston School Board upholds firing of teacher who used racial slur

By Floyd Ingram/Chickasaw Journal

Everybody wanted to have their say, but the Houston School Board made the final decision.

Houston school trustees voted Monday night to uphold the actions of its superintendent and principal in the firing of teacher’s aide Marilyn Ellis after she directed a racial slur against a fifth grader almost a month ago.

The boardroom was packed with people as Henry Ware asked the board to reinstate Ellis to her job as fulltime substitute and bus driver for Houston schools. Tamika Ivey, the mother of a fifth grade boy who heard Ellis’ statement, thanked the board for their decision.

Columbus Wright, President of the Houston NAACP, said he hoped Monday’s decision put an end to the issue and would allow the community to heal.

“We have been in contact with people on all sides of this issue,” said Wright. “We need to put this behind us.”

Ware said the racially charged name was first used by the student and Ellis only repeated it. Ware also pointed out Ellis had a spotless 20-year employment record with the district.

“The school board can’t please two sides and we just ask you do the right thing,” said Ware.

Ware tried to explain to the school board the process the district went through to fire Ellis, but he was stopped by School Board Attorney Jimmy Hood who said Ware was not there when Ellis was terminated and anything Ware said was hearsay.

Ivy stood and thanked the board for their decision to terminate Ellis.

“It is not Ok to stand in the classroom and say that kind of thing to anybody especially our children,” said Ivy. “I hope I speak for blacks and whites when I say that.”

The incident began almost a month ago when Ellis allegedly asked a student standing at the pencil sharpener his name and he responded with the racial slur. Ellis then allegedly used the word to tell the student to sit down.

The district responded to the incident immediately and Ellis was suspended for two days following an investigation by her principal and school administrators. Ellis was later delivered a termination letter at her home by Houston Superintendent Dr. Steve Coker.

There are approximately 2,000 students enrolled in the Houston School District. The racial makeup of the district is about 41 percent black, 52 percent white and 6 percent Hispanic.