Kankakee teacher racial slur: John Donovan fired after caught on video calling Michael Nelson the N word in District 111 classroom

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KANKAKEE, Ill. (WLS) — The school board unanimously voted to fire a teacher caught on video allegedly calling a student a racial slur, but the family of the student involved in that encounter said that 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 walked out of class following a verbal dispute.

“There is absolutely utter disdain and horror at what occurred in that classroom,” said Kankakee School District 111 Board Member Christopher Bohlen.

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

“There is absolutely nothing that any student can do to deserve having that word 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, during which he allegedly threw a book at him.

“I mean, this is battery. He attacked him, and the school did nothing. The school did nothing to protect him,” said Kevin O’Connor, an attorney for the Nelson family.

Donovan did not immediately return requests for comment.

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