(CBS) — A teacher allegedly used the N-word in a west suburban classroom.

But was it a conversation about race and culture, a lapse in judgment — or worse?

As CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports, it depends who you ask.

It happened at Jay Stream Elementary in Carol Stream. Eighth-graders Mea Thompson and Zaria Daniel say what was supposed to be a lesson on the Cold War turned into a racial discussion when a white substitute teacher approached a group of black students.

During the ensuing conversation, the teacher allegedly used the N-word.

“We said that’s not what we’d be considered and she said well what should we call you, a slave?” Thompson said. “One of my friends pushed her books on the floor and said ‘Excuse me?’”

Says Daniel: “I said that’s offensive and she said, ‘Well, I’m just trying to tell you guys something. I’m just trying to teach you a lesson.’”

The girls reported the incident to the principal. While school officials declined to be interviewed on-camera, Supt. Bill Shields sent a letter to parents acknowledging that “the words said during the conversation offended students.”

“The substitute doesn’t represent our district. We’re not having her back,” he said. “The students handled it with great maturity. We’re proud of them.”

But one parent says she’s not proud of the way the school handled it.

“I don’t hold them responsible for the actions of this one particular woman. But I do expect them to do more,” says Shayna Thompson, Mea’s mother.

She says the teacher’s offer to apologize for the misunderstanding won’t cut it. Thompson is pursuing “hate crime” and “disorderly conduct” charges against the substitute, whom the school has not identified.