By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Audio of East Forsyth principal using racial slur in conversation with student angers parents
Cheney, staff members were discussing student’s ‘continued use of offensive language’
East Forsyth High School
East Forsyth High School. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Several East Forsyth High School families expressed concern this weekend after seeing a video circulating of Principal Jeff Cheney saying “the full N-word” during a conversation with a white student.

According to a statement from Forsyth County Schools, Cheney, who is also white, and two school staff members met with the student on Friday, Sept. 9, about his “continued use of offensive language.” This includes the word “cracker,” a racial epithet directed toward white individuals that was said several times during the conversation.

“The goal of the meeting was for the student to understand that we must all be sensitive and respectful to others,” the statement reads. “The student recorded the meeting without informing the three adults. The student then took a small portion of the recording and shared it with others.”

The 38-second video does not show Cheney or the student, but viewers can hear their voices in the recording.

“What am I calling you that is so bad?” the student asks Cheney in the video.

“Cracker,” Cheney replies. “Cracker is slang for white and it’s the antonym to [the full N-word], which is a very offensive comment …. It’s like almost saying that to a white person. And so we don’t want kids using the term cracker here.”

Cheney “immediately recognized his mistakes in comparing the two words and using the full N-word” and informed the district office of the conversation that same day, according to FCS’ statement.

He also met with the student’s parents on Friday to let them know what was said in the conversation and apologize.

“Forsyth County Schools believes that at no time and in no context should any variation of the N-word be used,” the district stated. “Students and adults make mistakes; Forsyth County Schools believes that we all can learn from our mistakes.”

Many parents and students who saw the video over the weekend, however, said they were concerned and surprised by their principal’s use of the word.

One parent, Holly Evatt, said her daughter first saw the video when it was shared in a group chat with other students. She showed her mom the video as soon as she got home from school that day.

“My daughter is half Black, so it really upset her,” Evatt said. “[I’m] angry that [Cheney] would feel comfortable enough to say that. Just outright say it without any hesitation right in front of a student. In front of anybody anyways, but at work and around children and he outright just says the word. To me, that could have just as easily been my daughter that he did that to.”

While she said she understands what Cheney was trying to tell the student in the video, she believes there was “a better way” for him to explain it. And several students who saw the video agreed.

“It was unexpected,” said a junior at East Forsyth who asked to remain anonymous. “There were a bunch of things he could have said or substituted. He had no right just to say that in my opinion. It was kind of crazy.”

The district stated that Cheney did not go to the school on Monday, and the student who recorded the video “will be receiving the appropriate consequence for what led to the meeting to occur.”