Home News High School Student Suspended After Recording Teacher Using a Racial Slur

High School Student Suspended After Recording Teacher Using a Racial Slur

by Staff

A 15-year-old high school student in Springfield, Mo., was suspended for three days after she recorded a video of her teacher repeatedly using a racial slur to refer to Black people, her lawyer said on Tuesday.

The Glendale High School student, Mary Walton, who is white, was in geometry class last week when her teacher used the slur four times, said her lawyer, Natalie Hull. Mary, a 10th grader, was not sure how to respond and then started to record a video of what was happening to share with her mother and a friend to get their advice. The teacher then used the racial slur two more times.

Ms. Hull said that Mary did not post the video online, but it “was circulating within the community within half an hour of it happening.”

The teacher, a man who has not been named publicly, was placed on administrative leave that day, May 9. Springfield Public Schools said in an email on Tuesday that he was “no longer employed” by the district and that it had accepted a resignation letter from him.

The 56-second video, which Ms. Hull shared with The New York Times, begins with the camera facing the ground and shows a desktop, a backpack and classroom chairs.

“I don’t like the word, at all,” the teacher is heard saying. “I don’t know. It feels like when a Black person is using it towards another Black person, it’s the same. How is it not still a derogatory word?”

A student responds, but the comment is muffled amid other noises in the classroom.

The teacher then says: “Is the word” — he repeats the slur — “not allowed to be said?”

A student tells him: “Don’t say it right now as a teacher if you want to keep your job. This isn’t a threat.”

The video then shows the classroom, including the teacher, who says: “I’m not calling anyone a” and repeated the slur.

He continues, “I can say the word.”

One student gasps, and another puts their head on their desk. A third student, who covered their mouth with their hand when the teacher used the slur, then says: “Why are you saying it?”

The teacher then speaks to Mary and tells her to put her phone away. She says “no,” and he responds: “Then go to the office.”

Ms. Hull said that Mary and her mother were not told about the suspension until 7 a.m. on Friday, three days later, and sought Ms. Hull’s help to challenge the suspension and to demand that the school apologize to the student. Ms. Hull said that Tuesday was the final day of Mary’s suspension and that the district had told them that it would not apologize or change the punishment.

Mary is having a “difficult time because of all the attention,” Ms. Hull said, and did not want to be interviewed.

Stephen Hall, a spokesman for Springfield Public Schools said in an emailed statement that student discipline was confidential and that the district was “confident that the district appropriately and promptly handled all matters related to what occurred at Glendale.”

He also pointed to the student handbook, which says that students are prohibited from using cellphones to make audio or visual recordings of faculty or staff in the classroom without the school’s approval. Students who violate these rules for the first time could face punishment including a parent-teacher conference, detention and a suspension of up to three days.

“Any consequences applied per the scope and sequence would also consider if minors are identifiable in the recording and what, if any, hardships are endured by other students due to a violation of privacy with the dissemination of the video in question,” Mr. Hall said.

“We want our schools to be safe and welcoming learning environments,” Mr. Hall said. “When students have concerns, they should follow the appropriate steps for reporting.”

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