A 16-year-old Mt. Juliet High School junior is used to classmates making fun of his Hispanic heritage, but when a teacher pretended not to remember his name and allegedly began calling him “Austin Fettuccine" in front of other students, he decided to report it. Now he says he's being punished for coming forward.
“I just felt targeted at that point,” Verduzco told News 4. “I was just shocked.”
Verduzco provided News 4 with a signed witness statement from a classmate who says she heard Social Studies teacher Wes Tewmey make the “Fettuccine” comment in front of a room full of students.
When News4 emailed Tewmey asking for a comment he replied, “Wrong again, fake news. Ever heard of libel, Mr. Trager?”
According to disciplinary records released to News4 by Verduzco’s mother, school officials claim Verduzco told classmates that Tewmey is a racist.
After an anonymous Facebook post calling Tewmey a 'racist' began circulating among students, Verduzco was accused of sharing it.
“The officers questioned me," he said. "The principal asked me for names of witnesses. I spent the whole day in and out of principal’s office explaining and writing statements.”
Verduzco was found guilty of “behavior prejudicial to good order and discipline,” and was sent to Wilson County’s alternative high school, MAP Academy, for nine weeks.
“Most of the kids are there for gang-affiliated activities, drugs, and bringing knives to school,” he said. “I’m angry with what they did to me.”
Wilson County Schools Director Dr. Donna Wright released the following statement to News 4:
"Privacy laws prevent me from being able to address the specific allegations you've asked about. Suffice to say, our district does not tolerate racist remarks, and any reports of that nature are always investigated and taken seriously."
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