When Kevin Brown sent his son Kaden to school Wednesday morning, he expected it would be another normal day at middle school for his 11-year-old biracial son.
But when Kaden returned from his day at Wolfe Middle School in Center Line, Michigan, Brown discovered his son distraught. His Language Arts teacher, Kaden told his dad, had noticed his curly hair and asked something he had never heard before: “Are you a mutt?”
Kaden didn’t understand what she meant, Brown wrote in a Facebook post the next day. Another student and the teacher then explained that they were asking if Kaden was “mixed with other races.”
“This left my son, my heart and joy feeling like he meant nothing, that he was less than nothing,” Brown wrote, adding that Kaden even asked his mother, “Why can’t I be all white?”
Brown wrote he was outraged.
“He wants to disown his African American heritage for his mother’s German, Italian, Irish heritage (guess his mom is a Mutt too)!!!!” Brown’s post read. “This teacher made my son feel dirty, calling him a mutt, a dog with no identity who doesn’t belong… This racist behavior should not be allowed in our schools, our children should never be faced with this BS, especially in the classroom from people that we (parents) entrust our children’s protection.”
Brown shared a photo of his son holding a sign reading, “I am not a mutt!!!” and added the school’s address and telephone number.
“This teacher must be fired, never allowed to work with children ever again,” he wrote, including her name at the bottom of the post. “I am tired of the hate, tired of the affliction and pissed off that my innocent child has become just another victim to racism in this county.”
Andrew S. McKinnon, assistant superintendent for human resources, told WJBK that the school was investigating the incident and had spoken to the teacher who made the comment. Though he declined to discuss specifics, he said administrative leave is often involved when investigating similar situations.
“I can tell you that she is quite upset as the student is quite upset about the whole situation. Nobody likes to be in this position. None of the actors in this, I’m sure, are happy to be in this position,” McKinnon told the station.
Kaden told WJBK it was not the first time he had encountered offensive comments at his own school, and that he had been called the n-word before Wednesday’s comment.
“I don’t really want to be two different races now, because people ask me if I’m adopted because I’m mixed,” he said.
Kaden’s parents said they are both waiting on the school to finish its investigation and hopefully remove the teacher from her post.
”A mutt is a dog, a mixed breed, an in-pure breed,” Kaden’s mother Liane Banks told the station. “That’s not my son.”
In followup posts, Brown described his son as a loving and enthusiastic student. In one video filmed two years ago and posted over the weekend, Brown showed him and his son looking up at a camera and talking about Kaden’s future.
“Who defines you?” Brown asked.
“Me,” Kaden replied.
“And what do you want to do with your life?”
“I want to be a doctor so I can help people.”
“And what does that take?”
“A lot of effort.”
“And hard work?”
“This is the Kaden I know,” Brown added in the caption.