NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Thirty teachers and staff from the New Haven Public Schools system have signed a letter, calling on the Board of Education to further address the vote to transfer and demote a principal for using a racial slur. But the superintendent is standing by her decision for the punishment.
The concern is that the principal of Brennan Rogers Magnet School, Laura Roblee, was demoted and transferred to another school after allegedly using the N-word. Over two dozen New Haven teachers and staff signed the letter addressed to the Board of Ed, expressing disappointment in “the handling of the harm” that resulted from Roblee’s comment.
The copy of the letter News 8 obtained said in part, “This was not an accident— when you preface a racial slur with the comment, “between us white women”— you know you are intentionally about to say something you think will be safe in the company of like-skinned women. She was wrong. Her words were not a mistake.”
Superintendent Dr. Iline Tracey emphasized that Roblee used the word in a hypothetical way. She calls the statement by Roblee a slip of the tongue.
In a press conference Monday, Dr. Tracey read a statement from Roblee which details her side of the story and gave Roblee’s apology. It states back in March Roblee was talking with two other teachers about the anti-bias training staff had taken that day.
Dr. Tracey read, “A teacher was discussing the adult meeting that we attended. She asked what I thought of it. I stated I thought it was good. I proceeded to ask her the term ‘whiteness’ and I wasn’t understanding it and was taking it personal. She explained it to me and I said ‘Thank you.’ The conversation went on and I stated something to the effect that if I said ‘blacks or the n-word’ we would have an issue with it…I realize I did something wrong and I understand there have to be consequences. I wish I could take it back.”
READ: Full letter of Roblee’s account of the incident and her apology:
The superintendent standing by her decision for punishment: “It was hurtful what was said. The situation was concerning and after taking into account everything, I delivered accountability.”
But community members are still taking issue with how the investigation unfolded.
Rev. Boise Kimber, the senior pastor at First Calvary Baptist Church in New Haven, pushed back Monday saying, “This was not just a slip of the lips. This came from her heart. This was on her mind. Somebody has got to go.”
He added he wants to know more about what Roblee’s role will be in the district now that she has been relocated.
“How is she going to lead this district with this cloud of smoke over her head and over this city and over education?” Rev. Kimber asked.
And the Board of Ed. members voted four to three to demote and transfer her to another school. However, not all board members are happy with that decision.
“We can’t ignore it; we can’t say we’re moving somebody and think that campus is going to just keep moving on because that would be negligent on our part,” said New Haven Board of Ed member Dr. Tamiko Jackson-McArthur. “As a member of the Board of Education, I want to apologize to the campus. It’s not just one of us that offends the district, it’s all of us.”
Dr. Tracey says Roblee’s punishment matched the consequences she handed down.
“Had the principal said the word directly to an individual like calling the individual the N-word, it would be a different story…I’m not here sticking up for her because as a superintendent I have to be fair.”
She adds Roblee’s training will continue as she takes on a new position at the central office that is yet to be announced.
News 8 reached out to New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker and others who voted in favor of the transfer, but we have yet to hear from them.