FORT WASHINGTON, Md. - A Prince George’s County Public Schools employee is under investigation after a family says she used a racial slur during a dispute over a parking spot.
Part of what happened outside of a Walmart store in La Plata on Monday was caught on camera.
Dawn Tolson-Hightower asks the woman, “Did you just call my husband the n-word?”
The school employee responds, “Yeah, I did.”
“In front of my children?” asks Tolson-Hightower.
Tolson-Hightower tells FOX 5 that she and her family were leaving Walmart and the woman got frustrated as she was trying to take their parking spot.
”That’s when she pulled up to the vehicle on the driver side, rolled her window down and called my husband an f-ing n-word,” she said.
Tolson-Hightower says the woman drove off, but she followed her.
“I wanted to see – Was she remorseful? Did she have any change of heart that she just did that in front of my children?” said Tolson-Hightower.
She says it was a tough car ride home with her teenage daughter and young son.
“I honestly was trying to find a way to explain to my 10-year-old where this comes from,” the mother said. “Watching my kids faces really hurt my heart. Watching my husband feel like, ‘Well, don’t worry about it Dawn. This has happened to me before.’”
Tolson-Hightower posted the video on Facebook. As of Tuesday night, it had been viewed more than 55,000 times. It was Facebook users who identified the woman in the video as a school employee.
A Prince George’s County Public Schools spokesman says the employee involved will be out of the school while this is under investigation.
PGCPS is aware of a video on social media involving an employee. We are working to address parent & community concerns. (1/2)— PGCPS (@pgcps) November 13, 2018
Diversity & tolerance are our core values. We expect all members of the PGCPS community — administrators, faculty, staff & students — to behave in a respectful manner. (2/2)— PGCPS (@pgcps) November 13, 2018
Prince George's County school board member Edward Burroughs says while the employee is entitled to due process, the school district is taking this seriously.
“The school district all day and all night has been responding to concerns from parents, students and community leaders about the video,” Burroughs said.
For Tolson-Hightower, what happened has brought back memories of another racist attack. In 2004, her house near Indian Head was among two dozen homes in the Hunter Brooke subdivision burned in a racially-motivated arson spree. FOX 5 spoke to her back when it happened.
“It was 14 years ago, but it’s very fresh in my mind,” she said.
She says feeling helpless back then is part of why she confronted the woman on Monday. She says if the woman had just apologized, she would have let it go.
“I don’t want to think that I live in a community that condones racism at all,” Tolson-Hightower said. ”And to know that this is still going on, it does bother me.”