A group of angry parents will confront the San Francisco school board on Tuesday over the firing of a longtime elementary school principal who repeatedly uttered the ‘N-word’ while reprimanding the use of the slur by a student and at a subsequent meeting. investigation of the incident.

The dispute has escalated in recent weeks with more than 27,000 people signing a petition defending Principal Carol Fong while those representing the African American community have called for zero tolerance of district staff who use the word although they didn’t explicitly call for his dismissal or transfer.

The question again exposed the racial conflict seen in the city’s schools between the Asian American community, particularly Chinese-American groups, and the black community, reflected more recently in the debate over the assignment process. school at Lowell High School. It also raises questions about the district’s approach to conflict resolution in schools, called restorative justice, and whether it extends to adults in the community.

The district launched an investigation into Fong in January after parents filed a formal complaint about Fong’s use of the “N-word.”

According to the principal and parents, Fong called a reunion of fifth-grade students following a fight in the playground, during which a student used the “N-word.”

While explaining that the insult is unacceptable and hurtful, Fong said the word several times to students and later to district staff.

“In my account of the incident in the yard, I made the mistake of telling the n-word in its entirety. Although the intention was to teach my students (knowing that 40% of them are from non-English speaking families) that saying the n-word was inappropriate, in hindsight I shouldn’t have used the full word,” she said in her May 24 apology letter. “During investigation, I recounted the incident verbatim to district staff This included the verbatim use of the N-word the student said during the incident.

Ulloa Elementary families said they would protest the decision to reassign Fong ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, then call on the district to keep her in school during public comments. Fong served at the school, located in the Outer Sunset, for 20 years.

Fong could not be reached for comment.

The district’s African American Parent Advisory Council and San Francisco NAACP representatives called on the district and school board to “listen to black families” who were “drowned” in the process.

Fong informed the families on Friday that Superintendent Vince Matthews had decided to “involuntarily transfer” her out of the school. The decision follows months of investigation into the incident as well as a restorative justice process that required the principal to apologize to students and parents and participate in diversity training, among other things. actions, which she fulfilled, the parents said.

“It’s my job to think about the best interests of Ulloa students,” Matthews said in response to Fong’s withdrawal. “The community will be involved in selecting a new permanent director for Ulloa.”

Reverend Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco NAACP, participated in meetings with Fong during the investigation and reparations process.

“We were talking about restorative justice,” Brown said Tuesday. “However, there were parents in this meeting whose cup of endurance had overflowed and were at their wits’ end.”

Some felt Fong mishandled the situation and his apology was insincere, Brown said, adding that he was unaware of Fong’s reassignment until it was publicly announced.

The parents, however, said they were taken aback by the decision, which came a month after Fong’s public apology and well after school had ended for the summer.

Fong was offered a position as a program administrator at the district’s central office, officials said.

Parents have signed petitions and many district leaders have emailed demanding more information about the process, while defending Fong, who they say used insults while trying to navigate the cultural differences or misunderstandings.

The school, which has 530 students, is nearly 80 percent Asian American, 6 percent Latino, 4 percent white, and less than 1 percent African American. Almost 40% are English learners and 53% from low-income families.

Vid Tubtimscharoon, whose son is entering third grade at Ulloa, said the school’s demographics had to be considered when assessing the incident. He said the same pronunciation of the “N-word” in Mandarin means “that” and in Korean means “you”.

“How is a principal supposed to handle a school situation like this?” He asked. “It’s a very delicate situation.”

The district’s African American Advisory Board, however, said Fong repeated the word multiple times and caused harm to students and families.

“We recognize that the use of the n-word originally used by Principal Fong when addressing an auditorium full of fifth-grade students and staff may have been a misguided attempt at a time conducive to the learning,” the group said in a May 22 letter to the district. leadership,” however, after being challenged about the use of the slur and educated on the impact and history of the word, Principal Fong deliberately continued to use the slur many times when addressing the parents, staff and even his supervisor”.

Several parents appealed to district administrators to support Fong. In one instance, Deputy Superintendent of Elementary Schools E’leva Hughes Gibson responded via email, saying “using the N-word multiple times with various people in many places is a racist practice.”

Many Ulloa parents acknowledged the use of the word was wrong, but believed the restoration process was over and healing could begin without further discipline, said parent leader Selena Chu.

“The restorative justice process is about communicating, educating and getting a second chance,” Chu said. “Usually the result is positive unless the person is unwilling to comply. Principal Fong, according to the information we have heard, he has already complied.

The Chinese American Democratic Club and city supervisor Gordon Mar also weighed in on the situation.

“This principal is highly regarded in the school community with over 20,000 petitions signed by the community, a reflection of the longstanding support and faith shown in this principal,” club leaders said in a letter to the superintendent on 26 may. Please ensure that these voices are not silenced to determine an outcome.

Mar called on SFUSD officials to consider Fong’s long history with the district.

“I urge the district to engage in a fair and thoughtful process that validates the concerns of families who may feel aggrieved while recognizing Principal Fong’s exemplary accomplishments as an education leader,” Mar said.

Jill Tucker and Chasity Hale are writers for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] [email protected] Twitter: @jilltucker @chas_hale