By Kimberly Davis

PENNS GROVE, N.J. (CBS) — A state arbitrator has ruled that a Salem County, New Jersey school district cannot fire a tenured middle school teacher who allegedly used a racial slur in class. The arbitrator found Bruce Bassetti was “muttering to himself” and not addressing students in his seventh grade class.

“It’s racist! If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, it’s a duck! It’s racist,” parent Walter Hudson said.

Penns Grove parents did not have anything positive to say about the man responsible for their children’s education for the last 14 years.

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In fact, Bassetti will not be teaching anyone in the district if the Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional School District has anything to say about it.

And parents agree with that.

“I want to see him fired. If he comes back it’s going to be all our protests. It’s not going to be comfortable here. He’s going to need police escort going to his vehicle,” said Hudson.

Bassetti is on paid leave after being accused of saying the “n-word.” But in the state arbitrator report and ruling, the seventh grade science teacher denies using the racial slur.

The arbitrator ruled that “Bassetti muttered under his breath, and that discharge is too severe, disproportionate to the offense.”

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But the superintendent and parents still want him out.

“What troubles me is they feel it’s not racist because he mumbled the words,” Hudson later added.

In the reports, Bassetti noted the student in question was white.

In a statement sent to Eyewitness News, Superintendent Dr. Zenaida Cobian says, “The Board and the Administration are outraged by the Arbitrator’s ruling.  The Arbitrator found that Mr. Bassetti did, in fact, use the “n word” in his classroom and in the presence his seventh-grade students.”

She goes on to say, “Rather than recognizing this conduct as utterly unacceptable, the Arbitrator ruled that Mr. Bassetti’s use of the ‘n word’ was not unbecoming conduct and did not warrant any discipline  much less his termination.”

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Eyewitness News went to Bassetti’s Millville, New Jersey home, but a man who was sitting outside went inside and turned off the lights.

Despite the arbitrator’s ruling for Bassetti not to be fired and him having a clean record, the district believes the science teacher violated trust with students and the school the board will appeal the arbitrator’s ruling.

Kimberly Davis