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East Forsyth principal takes voluntary leave of absence to ‘reflect’ after use of racial slur captured on video by a student
East Forsyth High School
East Forsyth High School. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Cheney Jeff
Jeff Cheney. - photo by For the Forsyth County News
East Forsyth High School Principal Jeff Cheney is taking a temporary leave of absence in light of recent controversy caused by a video in which he uses a racial slur in a conversation with a student.

Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden sent an announcement to the school’s parents Wednesday morning, informing them that Cheney had requested the leave of absence to “have time to reflect, process and move forward” after the incident.

Bearden stated in the message that he approved Cheney’s request for a voluntary leave of absence and promised to “stay in contact with him.”

“I am writing to ask for your continued support of the East Forsyth leadership team, teachers and staff during this time period,” Bearden stated. “We appreciate you and your family and are committed to moving forward with you.

Chief Communications Officer Jennifer Caracciolo told the Forsyth County News that Bearden met with teachers and staff Wednesday morning before the message was sent out to parents. Right now, she said there is no set date for when Cheney is expected to return to his position at the school.

“We will communicate to teachers, staff, parents and guardians and students when new information becomes available,” Caracciolo said.

In the meantime, the school’s three assistant principals will be stepping in to cover Cheney’s responsibilities.

When asked if Cheney would face disciplinary action, the district stated that it “legally cannot discuss personnel or student issues.”

“At this time, there is nothing further we can share,” Caracciolo said.

The video first started circulating among parents and students at the school last weekend, and many said they were concerned and surprised to hear their principal use “the full N-word” while speaking with a student.

According to a district statement, Cheney and two school staff members met with the student, who is white, 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 student recorded the meeting without informing the three adults,” the statement reads. “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.”

Following the conversation, FCS stated that Cheney immediately informed the district office of the conversation that same day and apologized to the student and his parents.

“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.”