By Gilda Balan, Correspondent
WISCONSIN – One teacher’s idea of humor was not only considered not funny, his words had devastating effects on a minor of Asian descent.
The Asian American community was angered when a school district in Wisconsin allowed a teacher accused of mouthing anti-Asian slurs back into his classroom.
A report from the Daily Beast last week stated that teacher Robert Perkin did indeed engage in insensitive and unprofessional conduct, but his word did not qualify as being any form of discrimination or harassment.
Perkin is a band teacher at the Wassau School District and the Asian American community was incensed when he used such words as “ching chong” and “ch!nk” inside the classroom, then was allowed to get away with it.
Media organizations in the city such as the Wassau Daily Herald and The Wassau Pilot and Review covered the story, and they reported that Asian Americans felt what the school district did send “a strong message that using racist, sexist, and homophobic slurs are permissible as long as they are made in good faith.”
The parent of the victim stated that his son was devastated at what his teacher had said. Tha Vongphakdy told radio station WAOW: “When I saw it in my son’s eyes as he’s crying on the floor, it broke my heart that a grown man can do this to my son.”
The student who was at the receiving end of Perkin’s insults said the incident was not only intentional but was also part of an ongoing pattern of verbal misbehavior.
The district is predominantly white but has a significant Hmong-American population.
An open letter from the Asian American community stated that they were “angry, hurt, and worried about the kind of classroom culture East High School tolerates.”
They added that they were also concerned at the “unacceptably low standards it allows for its teachers.”
Keith Hilts, district superintendent, wrote his own letter to parents saying, “While a preponderance of the evidence shows that Mr. Perkins did not engage in harassing or discriminatory behavior, he did engage in insensitive and unprofessional conduct.”
(Note: While the district superintendent referred to the teacher as ‘Perkins,’ the various media organizations reported his name as ‘Perkin.”)
Hilts further defended the band teacher by adding that he “uses humor to engage students and create a ‘fun’ environment.”