Va. school district defends discussion of n-word during lesson on 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'

Loudoun County Public Schools is defending a teaching lesson where a racial slur was displayed on a projector screen in a high school English classroom.

The incident took place at Heritage High School in Leesburg and the school said it was part of a lesson for 11th grade students on Mark Twain's novel, "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."

Elaine Jenkins and Nancy Davis said their children and others contacted them after the n-word was projected on the classroom's screen.

"It spells out the n-word and I think it's like three different ways and what it means," said Jenkins. "I just don't understand how they can think this is appropriate to be teaching something like this in class."

"As of Tuesday, my understanding was that they were trying to give instruction to a word that is so demeaning to our culture and normalize it," said Davis. "The kids were offended - white, black, Hispanic, Indian, Asian - they were all offended."

The lesson that was being taught focused on different uses of the racial slur and which use of the word may be considered offensive. FOX 5 has been told this particular lesson has been taught every year at Heritage, but some teachers acknowledge the word while others do not.

A meeting took place to discuss the incident with students, parents and administration Wednesday night.

The school district said it is reviewing the curriculum and determining how to move forward, but stand by the use of the n-word as part of this class' instruction.

"You have to put it in context," said Loudoun County Public Schools spokesperson Wayde Byard. "Was this a teacher yelling this at a student to degrade them? No. She was trying to explain a work of literature that has been honored as one of the greatest works of American history.

"The problem with the book has always been - does Twain really portray realistically the relationship between two people of different races trying to find common ground? And the language is coarse. It was coarse in his day. It's coarse now. But the message behind it is a universal one, which I think is what the teacher was trying to get across."

Heritage's principal has apologized to students and parents upset about the incident. The teacher who displayed the racial slur on the projector said it was not her intent to be offensive.

Jenkins and Davis have filed complaints with the local NAACP chapter and the school district.