The firing of a black security guard at Madison West High School in October for using a racial slur gained national attention for local protests and its implications on racial issues.

That attention and a union action resulted in Marlon Anderson getting his job back days later.

Anderson had worked for the Madison Metropolitan School District for 11 years, including three at West, when he was terminated Wednesday, Oct. 16, for saying the N-word to a disruptive student, according to multiple regional reports.

The district cited a zero-tolerance policy against the use of racial slurs by district staff, and West principal Karen Boran’s email to parents and teachers stated racial slurs were not acceptable by staff members regardless of context or circumstance, according to Channel3000.

But Anderson, with the help of the Madison teachers’ union, filed a grievance, arguing context was crucial to his situation, according to reporting by Madison365.

The student, Anderson argued, had uttered the slur 15 times at him and pushed a vice principal who was trying to escort the student out of the building before Anderson lost his patience and responded by saying, “Don’t call me n{&bullet}{&bullet}{&bullet}{&bullet}{&bullet}.”

Anderson’s son, Noah, is the president of the Black Student Union at West and led a protest walk-out with over 1,500 students and staff Oct. 18, according to Capital Times reporting.

During the wave of national attention the story received – including in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, USA Today and Newsweek – singer and actress Cher offered to pay Anderson’s legal fees if he sued the school district.

Channel3000 reported that Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County provided Anderson temporary employment, and its CEO, Michael Johnson, asked the district superintendent to reassess the zero-tolerance policy, which had been adopted in 2017.

By Oct. 21, school board president Gloria Reyes requested that the district’s interim superintendent rescind the termination, and Anderson returned to work Nov. 5. Two other staff members suspended in 2019 under the policy are appealing, Capital Times reported.

– Neal Patten