Social Navigation

Missouri high school student suspended for 3 days after filming teacher using racial slurs in class


A sophomore from Missouri has been suspended for three days after filming her teacher last week using a racial slur in class, prompting the teenager’s attorney and mother to demand the district apologize and remove his suspension from his record.

The incident happened May 9 in a geometry class at Glendale High School in Springfield, when the student’s teacher used the slur more than once, and the student then decided to take her cell phone and record, according to the teenager’s lawyer, Natalie Hull.

The student, Mary Walton, filmed the teacher, who has not been publicly identified by the school district, using the n-word twice in a video that is about a minute long.

In one part of this video, another student objects to the teacher’s use of the word and responds, “I’m not calling anyone n—-r. I can say the word.

Glendale High School in Springfield, Mo.
Glendale High School in Springfield, Mo.Google Maps

The teacher is no longer employed by the school system, according to Springfield Public Schools. The student was suspended, Hull said, under a policy that prohibits students from filming professors unless they obtain their prior consent.

“It’s absolutely awesome that the 15-year-old knew something was going on and stood up to it and said I’m going to document this. I’m going to stand up for what’s right no matter what. And I’m going to make sure that comes to light,” Hull said in an interview on Tuesday.

She added: “Mary was trying to provide indisputable documentation of the monumental harm she witnessed in class. Mary doesn’t understand why she was punished for doing the right thing.

Hull said the teenager was also concerned about the potential backlash she could receive when she returns to class after the suspension.

“She is worried about how she will be treated. And she worries about how it will affect her moving forward with her educational endeavors.

Springfield Public Schools spokesman Stephen Hall said in a statement that the teacher is no longer employed by the school system. Hall also defended the punishment of students in similar circumstances.

“There has been a lot of speculation regarding student discipline related to a video recording of the unacceptable incident in class,” Hall said. “Student discipline is confidential, in accordance with federal law, and Springfield Public Schools cannot release details related to the actions taken.”

“The student handbook is clear, however, about the consequences of improper use of electronic devices,” the statement continued. “Any consequences applied by scope and sequence would also consider whether minors are identifiable in the recording and what hardship, if any, is endured by other students due to a breach of privacy with broadcast of the video in question.”

Hall said Springfield Public Schools supports the district’s handling of the incident at Glendale High School.

“We want our schools to be safe and welcoming learning environments. When students have concerns, they should take the appropriate steps to report them.”

A May 9 message from Glendale High School Principal Josh Groves to the high school community noted that the comments made by the teacher on the video were “inappropriate, inexcusable and do not meet the professional standards of employees. Springfield Public Schools”.

Under district policy in the student handbook titled “Inappropriate Use of Electronic Devices,” students are prohibited from recording faculty or students without prior permission. Penalties for first-time high school offenses range from a parent-teacher meeting, to detention, and a suspension of up to three days.

Walton’s mother, Kate Welborn, 44, said on Tuesday her daughter’s decision to record was morally correct.

“What every parent wants is to know they’ve raised a child who has a good moral compass,” Welborn said. “My daughter has demonstrated that and I’m incredibly proud of her, as are her father and extended family.”

Hull likened Walton’s actions to a whistleblower and said the district’s policy needs to be reassessed because it’s too restrictive.

“When she picked up the camera and started recording, … it was a news event. She captured him in case he needed to be shared.

The school district, citing student confidentiality, declined to comment on Tuesday whether it would reevaluate its policy, rescind the student’s suspension or apologize to her.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.