Hamden, Connecticut: Corinne Terrone, a New Haven resident and Hamden Public Schools employee resigned after she used racial epithets in an encounter with two people of color at a grocery store, an incident shared in a video Friday night that thousands of Facebook users have re-posted.
The video shows a white woman, whom Superintendent Jody Goeler has identified as former Hamden Public Schools employee Corinne Terrone, using racial slurs. A statement from the school district said Terrone has resigned from her position. According to the district’s website, Terrone was a clerk in the Central Office.
In the footage, posted by a user whose profile name is “Tatiana Winn,” Terrone yells the n-word three times and spits at two people, a black man and woman. It is unclear how the encounter began.
After her first use of the racial epithet, the man appears to rush toward Terrone, who taunts, “Put your hands on me, come on!” and pulls out her phone to begin recording. The man then appears to quickly knock the device from her hand, and does not make further physical contact based on what is visible in the footage.
When the man slowly walks away, Terrone hurries after him, and the black woman steps in between them.
According to the Facebook post, the video was filmed at East Haven’s ShopRite. Many of the thousands of comments it has received express support for the black individuals and outrage toward Terrone.
Terrone’s New Haven home was quiet on Saturday afternoon and no one appeared to be inside.
By that time, a black next-door neighbor had heard about the video and was surprised. The man, who declined to be identified, said he’s never seen Terrone exhibit racist behavior and that his grandchildren often play with her kids.
“She’s in a bad situation,” the man said.
The man said he’s been living next to Terrone for more than eight years and she’s been an “excellent” neighbor.
“She’s always been the sweetest woman in the world,” the man said.
Several neighbors said police were at Terrone’s home earlier in the day.
East Haven Police Lt. Joseph Murgo released a statement, saying the department “is aware of this disturbing video and the hate speech contained in it” but that no complaint has been filed.
“We are in touch with ShopRite and are looking to get a better understanding of what took place (Friday) night,” the statement said.
The statement asked anyone involved in the incident to contact the East Haven Police Department.
“We have a lot of avenues to go down if somebody were to reach out to us,” Murgo said. “We want somebody to come forward … if they were present (Friday) night.”
If Terrone were charged, Murgo continued, police would base the offense on the complainant’s statement. Though she could face many possible charges — the minimum being breach of peace — spitting is considered a form of assault, Murgo said.
The Hamden School district posted a statement about the incident on its website.
“We have become aware of video footage that appears to show an employee in our district engaged in abhorrent conduct. Specifically, the video appears to show the employee repeatedly calling an African-American man the N-word in a supermarket in East Haven,” the statement says.
“The video also appears to show the Hamden employee spitting at the aforementioned African-American male as he was walking away from the employee. It also appears that the employee’s children witnessed her conduct. Because her children were present, school administrators filed a DCF report,” the statement continues.
In an email, Karen Kaplan, Hamden Public Schools director of Program Innovation, Technology & Communications, wrote the woman “has been separated from employment effective immediately.”
The statement also describes the consequences of Terrone’s actions. “While it appears as though this happened after work hours on Friday evening, the Human Resource Director contacted the employee and arranged an investigatory meeting with her. Shortly after final arrangements were made for the investigatory meeting, the employee rendered her resignation effective immediately.”
“The language the employee used in the video is in conflict with the values of the Hamden Public School System,” the district’s statement said. “Someone who will use that sort of language in any setting, whether public or private, is not someone we want anywhere near our children. The employee is separated from service, and we hope that her children will receive the support they need after witnessing such a traumatic event.”
Mayor Curt B. Leng and Council President Michael McGarry described the conduct featured in the video as “vile” and “disgusting” in a statement issued Saturday afternoon. Both praised the speed of the response from the Hamden schools.
“What I saw was vile and shocking. While I am disgusted and disheartened seeing such hateful behavior, wildly unacceptable anywhere, I am thankful for the swift and effective actions taken by our school system to address this head on and make clear that hate and violence will not be tolerated,” said Leng in the statement.
“The Legislative Council has been made aware of a video that appears to show an employee of the Hamden Public Schools acting and speaking in a manner that is unacceptable for an employee of the Town of Hamden. The actions and statement of the women in the video are disgusting and horrifying. It is additionally disturbing that the incident takes place in the presence of children,” McGarry said. “Hamden values the inherent worth and dignity of all people, and the actions and statements in the video do not reflect those values.”
State Sen. Len Fasano and state Rep. Joseph Zullo, both Republicans representing East Haven, issued a joint statement condemning the conduct in the video.
“What we saw in this video is repulsive and deeply offensive and does not represent the people of East Haven or our values. The behavior is shocking and upsetting and has no place anywhere, including in our community,” Fasano and Zullo said in the statement. “We understand Hamden Public Schools has acted quickly to seek this employee’s resignation. East Haven police are also seeking more information and urging any potential victims or witnesses involved to come forward. Hate speech and violence will not be tolerated in our community.”
State Sen. George Logan, R-Ansonia, described the events depicted in the video as “disgraceful” in a statement Saturday.
“Shocking. Disturbing. Disgusting. This video made me sick to my stomach. As a community, we must condemn these actions in the strongest of terms,” Logan said. “We will never tolerate hate speech. Anyone who knows witnesses of this ugly incident should contact East Haven police immediately.”