Brighton teacher accused of using racial slur in class testifies in district hearing

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BRIGHTON, N.Y. (WROC) — The Brighton High School teacher accused of using a racial slur in class testified in a third and final hearing on Tuesday.

Jim Quinlisk said he felt insulted and disgusted when reading the charge against him, which, in so many words, called him a racist. At Tuesday’s hearing, he had the chance to tell his side of the story and said he stands by what he said that day in class.

Jim Quinlisk said a student was reading aloud from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The student came across a word, which sounds like a racial slur when pronounced. Quinlisk said he could tell the student was hesitant, so he stopped to explain the words aren’t the same. The word in question means stingy, or not forthcoming.

Quinlisk said he then told the students we have a choice to let words have power over us or we can take power over them. In the explanation, he said the racial slur. News 8 talked to him after the hearing. He couldn’t say much about the charge, because of the pending decision, but said he wants to be fully transparent.

“I had a public meeting, I wanted a public meeting on purpose. I wanted people to be able to see and judge for themselves what they thought about these charges and this issue,” said Quinlisk.

A student in the class was offended by his use of the word and was removed from his class. In testimony, that student said he used the slur multiple times. Quinlisk said he only used it once.

Quinlisk said he stands by everything he said that day in class. He also said hearing that student’s testimony and how upset he made them was like a punch in the stomach.

“I’ve taught at Brighton High School for 18 years, this would be my nineteenth. I’ve never had a disciplinary issue and thank God I’ve had so many great people to work with. During this process the true blessing for me is all the support I’ve gotten from friends and family, student’s parents, it’s truly been a humbling outpouring for me that’s the thing I’m gonna take away from this,” Quinlisk said.

In testimony, Quinlisk said he wanted the chance to talk to the student or their parents but he said that request was denied. He also said when he was first told about the charges, a district official told him, “We want you out of here.”

A district official also testified on Tuesday and said Quinlisk was argumentative during the meeting regarding the incident.

The lawyers in the case will have 30 days to file briefs then a decision will be made. Quinlisk told News 8 he’s still an employee of the district.

The district said this in a statement:

This is a personnel matter. The district respects the privacy rights of personnel matters, including this one, and for that reason, will not comment further to the press. The board of education and superintendent are resolute in their commitment to the students of the Brighton Central School District.

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