Sunday, March 9, 2003

Teacher fired for criticism of blacks

The Associated Press

EVARTS, Ky. - A Harlan County teacher has been fired after he sent an e-mail containing remarks about the black population.

Ralph Crow, 48, a Spanish teacher at Evarts High School, received a dismissal letter Friday from school district Superintendent Timothy Saylor. Saylor said Crow's e-mail was insensitive and demonstrated conduct of an "immoral character."

Crow sent the two-page e-mail Feb. 21 to about 40 staff members at the school. It said that achievements of whites are ignored so "non-achieving minorities can have the spotlight." It also said African-Americans are responsible for "about 90%" of violent crimes and the main achievement of Martin Luther King Jr. was the "introduction and promotion of communism."

Crow said his e-mail was meant as sarcasm and that he is a victim of political correctness and an overzealous superintendent.

"He's using his personal political views to silence me," Crow said.

Crow said his right to free speech was violated and that he plans to appeal his firing. Crow has 10 days to inform Saylor and the Kentucky Department of Education of his intent to challenge his dismissal, said Lisa Gross, a spokeswoman for the department. A three-member tribunal from outside Harlan County would then conduct a hearing on the matter.

Saylor told the teacher he had violated state board of education and county school district policies with his use of the school district's e-mail system. Crow also violated county school regulations on harassment and discrimination, Saylor wrote.

As grounds for the dismissal, Saylor wrote in the letter that Crow's conduct could cause "great disruption" to the school system.

Erma Murphy, 71, a woman whose black grandson was in Crow's Spanish class several years ago, said she was surprised the teacher was being accused of racism.

"I've never observed anything that was racist from him," said Murphy, adding that Crow worked hard to encourage her grandson to excel.

Raoul Cunningham, former director of the NAACP voter-empowerment program, said he was disgusted by the e-mail.

"There is no question that it's racist," Cunningham said. "It's just so unfortunate that he chose the profession of teaching."

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