It’s been a week, but an Edison High School student is still shaken after what her teacher allegedly said in class last week. That teacher is now no longer in the classroom as the school district investigates what happened.

Alena Cotton, a junior, said it all started with a conversation about the Trail of Tears, particularly how she and a friend felt their history books downplays the severity of the event. The two discussed this in the final minutes of their math class last week.

As they talked, Cotton said her math teacher decided to weigh in on the subject. Eventually, moving onto the topic of what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable in language.

It allegedly resulted in the teacher saying this, according to Cotton: “When my mother was a little girl, she said we would go play with the little [N-word] girl across the street.”

Cotton said her teacher would say it again as she was walking out of the room. What really scared her about the whole thing was how her teacher said the word.

“She laughed and smiled at me. There was no form of professionalism, like, maybe I shouldn’t state this specific derogatory racial term in front of an entire class of 30 students,” Cotton said.

Since last week, Fresno Unified School District has stepped in to investigate. In an emailed statement, the district said per district policy “the teacher is on administrative leave until the investigation is complete.”

Cotton said staff at Edison High, including the principal, have been helpful in the week since it happened. However, she is having a hard time coming to grips with what she claims her teacher said.

“[The staff] are very, very proactive, they’re helping me, it’s just that the situation is bigger than me,” she said.

Fresno Unified School Board members have reached out, according to Cotton, and she plans to meet with some later in the week.

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