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Kankakee teacher’s racial slur: John Donovan fired after being filmed calling Michael Nelson the N-word in District 111 classroom


KANKAKEE, Ill. (WLS) — The school board voted unanimously to fire a teacher caught on video who allegedly called a student a racial slur, but the family of the student involved in the encounter said the action came weeks too late.

“I’m angry. I’m frustrated. And my heart is broken,” said Kankakee School District 111 Board Secretary Tracy Verrett.

Michael Nelson Jr., a 10th grader, was the student involved in the incident last Thursday in a classroom at Kankakee High School.


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“It’s really hard to describe. I just can’t, you know… I’m just mentally shocked,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he was called the N-word by his math teacher as he left class following a verbal argument.

“There is absolutely utter contempt and horror for what happened in this classroom,” said Christopher Bohlen, a member of the Kankakee School District 111 board of trustees.

The district said hours after the incident, the first-grade teacher, identified as John Donovan, was placed on paid leave.

“There is absolutely nothing a student can do to deserve that word being used against them,” said Kankakee School District 111 Superintendent Genevra Walters.

On Monday night, the school board voted unanimously to fire him.

But Nelson and his family are still demanding answers. They said the teacher should have been removed from that class earlier because of another encounter with Nelson last month, in which he allegedly threw a book at her.

“I mean, it’s a battery. He attacked him and the school did nothing. The school did nothing to protect him,” said Kevin O’Connor, the family’s attorney. Nelson.

Donovan did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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