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Black teacher, student discuss racism at Ironwood Ridge High School

Black teacher, student discuss racism at Ironwood Ridge High School
Posted at 10:25 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 00:25:19-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A hate speech incident has students protesting at Ironwood Ridge High School. Almost two weeks ago, P.E. teacher James Hardy found a disturbing image in the locker room.

"When I first saw it I think I was in disbelief, I was like ‘Am I looking into this?’” Hardy said.

It was a hang-man game drawn on the white board hanging outside his office. Hardy read the writing on the wall: it looked like N-word.

“I saw some letters it was like 'N slash slash slash E slash’,” Hardy said.

He reported it to the administration and the principal says they’re investigating the incident. But word of the image spread throughout the school, frustrating many students like Devon Green.

“I’d like there to be more responsibility taken,” Green said.

On Wednesday, Green alongside hundreds of students at Ironwood Ridge walked out of class in silent protest.

“Hearing all the students, it doesn’t seem like anyone really cares,” Green said.

Later that day, the school opened the auditorium so students could give voice to their concerns. Seventy-five students took the stage to talk about their encounters with racism.

“Some pretty bad things happened to just high schoolers and it’s pretty terrible and sad,” Green said.

Girl in auditorium: “People come up to me and they ask me to say the N-word when I told myself I wouldn’t say it. And it makes me feel so uncomfortable.”

Hardy says this all points to a bigger problem. Racial slurs is one reason he stepped down from his role as head football coach last Fall.

“This is not the first time it’s happened," Hardy said. "This has been happening even before I moved to Oro Valley."

The school says it's working on next steps to address these concerns and strengthen the community. Here is the school's most recent statement.