CHICAGO (CBS) — A white teacher at the predominantly African-American Murray Language Academy in the Hyde Park neighborhood has filed a federal lawsuit, after he was suspended for five days for using the N-word in class.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports, teacher Lincoln Brown says he was attempting to teach his class an important lesson in vocabulary, civility and race relations. It started when one of his sixth grade pupils passed a note to another student containing rap lyrics that included the N-word, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

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LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports

The lawsuit says Brown talked about the use of the word in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and how upsetting it can be. But just as the word came out of his mouth, the African-American principal of the school, Gregory Mason, walked in, the Sun-Times reported.

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Brown claims Mason stayed awhile and watched engaged, excited students. But two weeks later, the Sun-Times reported, Mason sent him a letter saying he was “verbally abusive,” “cruel,” “immoral,” “negligent” and “criminal.”

Mason suspended Brown for five days, starting Friday, the newspaper reported.

Brown has long taught in schools in African-American neighborhoods, and was named after President Abraham Lincoln by parents who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement, the Sun-Times reported.

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He told the Sun-Times’ Kim Janssen and Natasha Korecki that his suspension was “sad,” because the issues cannot be resolved if they are never confronted.