Editorial: Speech, words, actions in context

Our problems with race, speech and hate are not a Madison School District problem, though they show up there as much as any other institution in our country. But as we saw last week, the Madison School District can play a role in helping us understand the importance of speech in both words and actions.

Yes, the firing of a school district employee for using a word that is a racial slur in response to the inappropriate use of that word toward him by a student is the illogical extreme of a well-intended policy rendered ineffective by its inflexibility. That needs to change. But so, too, does the use of hateful words and our responses to the use of hateful words and finally our willingness to consider a word that has become such an important part of this conversation: context.

We appreciate so many people speaking out, students walking out and school officials reconsidering policies and actions. Context is critical, and the better we understand it, the better we understand each other.

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