Iowa teacher's aide fired for calling 'Huckleberry Finn' racist



Dubuque school says woman called book ‘racist,’ causing disruptions

12:42 AM, Jul. 16, 2012  

A teaching associate at a private school in Dubuque has been fired for allegedly disrupting classes by telling students that “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is a “racist” novel.

Naiya Galloway, 31, was fired by Hillcrest Family Services, a privately run K-12 school that is certified by the Iowa Department of Education through the Dubuque public schools. The school helps students who have mental health issues or behavior problems.

Galloway was employed by the school for six months in 2011, monitoring children in the classroom and helping with student discipline. According to state records made public last month, Galloway became upset one day when the teacher in her classroom mentioned the Ku Klux Klan in a discussion of historical and political events.

According to school officials, Galloway allegedly announced to a classroom full of students in October that Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was a racist book and should not be taught in schools. The next day, she was on a school bus with students when she allegedly renewed her criticism of the book as “racist,” forcing the bus driver to intervene, according to state records. School officials alleged she voiced objections to the book on numerous other occasions.

She also allegedly tried to derail a math teacher’s presentation by telling the students how she had once been the victim of racism. In addition, she was accused of suggesting to at least one of the students that the math teacher was a racist.

At the time, Galloway was planning to quit her job at the school. The alleged incidents involving the book prompted the school to terminate her employment immediately.

At a public hearing dealing with her subsequent request for unemployment benefits, Galloway denied all of the allegations that she had questioned the school’s use of the book. She acknowledged that she had disrupted a classroom discussion of the Ku Klux Klan because it had triggered “flashbacks,” noting that she’s both black and Japanese.

On May 29, administrative law judge James Timberland rejected Galloway’s request for unemployment benefits, citing multiple instances in which she had tried to sabotage student-teacher relations at the school.

“Rather than working to minimize students’ behavior issues so that they could learn in an appropriate environment, Ms. Galloway fed into the students’ behavior issues and disrupted the educational process,” Timberland ruled.

Timberland noted during the hearing that he has a master’s degree in English literature.

“So when I hear that ‘Huck Finn’ is racist, my immediate response — having studied literature and having studied that particular piece of literature and theory about it — is, ‘Of course it’s racist,’ ” Timberland said at the hearing.

“Part of the idea was to point out, through that book, that it was racist. It’s about racism,” Timberland said.

According to the records of Iowa Workforce Development, one other Iowa school employee was recently fired from his job after being accused of misconduct.

Chad Bol of Ruthven was fired from the Ruthven-Ayrshire school district, where he worked as a driver.

While transporting students in a van, Bol allegedly drove by his house, saw someone in his garage and yelled, “Get the —- out of there!”

He also was accused of playing adult-themed music for the children and giving one student a CD that he had made that featured lyrics of questionable content.

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