Kankakee School District Board votes to fire teacher accused of using racial slur against student

The Kankakee School District Board voted unanimously Monday night to fire a teacher who is accused of using a racial slur toward a student.

After the incident, John Donovan had been put on paid-leave — pending an investigation.

"I'm glad they made a wise decision tonight to fire him because he has no place belonging if he's going to continue with this action or the action that he did take, especially against my son," said Geraldine Nelson, the mother of the student involved.

District leaders say Donovan called sophomore Micahel Nelson the slur following a "minor argument" during class last Thursday.

The incident was caught on cellphone video from another student and shows Michael leaving the classroom and Donovan saying the racial slur.

"It impacted me mentally, knowing that no one had ever called me that before," said Michael. "For a teacher to do that, just shocked, speechless."


"The video is a system of a much larger societal issue," Kankakee School District 111 Supt. Dr. Genevra A. Walters said in a statement. "Although this is a disheartening situation for our students, families and public education, the root of the problem must be addressed in a systemic way. In light of the circumstances, we are proud of how the students handled the situation."

Administrators at the high school said they reviewed several videos of the incident and took statements from students who were in the classroom.

The Nelson family attorney, Kevin O’Connor, says there was another incident two weeks ago when he alleges Donovan threw a book at Michael. He adds their fight is not over.

"This is really disturbing because they're just trying to put a Band-Aid and wipe this under the rug saying, ‘Oh, look, we fired the teacher in five days. Look how great we are!’" said O’Connor. "When in fact this teacher had abused this student, abused Michael. Two weeks before, he threw a book at him. I mean, this is battery. He attacked him and the school did nothing."

The school board meeting began Monday at 7 p.m., and an hour later, the teacher had been terminated.