Missouri Teen Suspended for Recording Teacher Saying N-Word in Class 'Didn't Do Anything Wrong,' Lawyer Says
Mary Walton, 15, was suspended for three days after recording her geometry teacher using the racial slur in class. The instructor no longer works for the school district.
A 15-year-old high school student in Missouri was stunned to learn that trying to do the right thing resulted in her being suspended for three days, according to a family attorney.
Mary Walton returned this week to Glendale High School after being punished for recording her geometry teacher repeating the n-word in class last week. The unnamed instructor was placed on administrative leave after the cellphone video ended up on social media, the Springfield School District said in an email to Inside Edition Digital.
He has since resigned.
Mary, however, was flummoxed when school officials contacted her mother last Friday to say that she should not come to class and had been suspended for three days, lawyer Natalie Hull told Inside Edition Digital.
"She really doesn't understand what she did wrong," Hull said. "And she didn't do anything wrong."
School policy prohibits recording staff or students on campus without their permission, officials said.
District spokesman Stephen Hall said administrators acted appropriately. "Much speculation has occurred regarding student discipline related to a video recording of the unacceptable classroom incident," he said. "The student handbook is clear, however, on consequences for inappropriate use of electronic devices."
Officials are "confident that the district appropriately and promptly handled all matters related to what occurred at Glendale (High School). We want our schools to be safe and welcoming learning environments," he said.
Mary understood the cellphone policy, but felt she had to document what happened in the classroom as students asked the instructor to stop using the racial slur, her attorney said.
"They were asking him to stop saying the word," Hull said. "Can you imagine hearing your teacher saying the most vile world in the English vernacular?"
School administrators sent a letter home to parents after the video went viral on social media. According to Hull, Mary only sent her video to a few people, including her mother, asking what she should do about it. "Mary didn't disseminate the video," Hull said, adding that it's not clear who posted it.
"We are aware of a Glendale teacher using offensive, derogatory language during class today," reads the letter sent home to parents by Principal Josh Groves. "A video of the comments is being circulated and we have received several calls from concerned parents. I want you to know that the comments expressed in the video are inappropriate, inexcusable and do not meet the professional standards for Springfield Public Schools employees," the letter states.
Hull said the incident occurred last week as the instructor joined a conversation with his geometry class about why using the word was acceptable by some people of color, but unacceptable for others.
Then the teacher started using the slur.
“Is the word n***** not allowed to be said?" he asked the class, according to the video.
A student is heard telling him, "Don’t say it right now as a teacher if you want to keep your job. This isn’t a threat.”
The instructor is then heard saying, “I’m not calling anyone a n*****."
According to the video, the teacher tells Mary to stop filming, to which she replies, "No."
The student eventually stopped recording, Hull said, and the class continued.
Afterward, the video appeared online. "Within 30 minutes, it spread like wildfire in the school community," Hull said.
That was May 9. On May 12, Mary and her family were notified that she was suspended for three days for violating school policy.
"She was doing what was right," the family attorney said. "She took the video for proof. She's 15 years old. Do they believe that their word will taken against a teacher's?"
Mary and her parents want school administrators to apologize, and to remove the sophomore's suspension from her record.
"There's no embarrassment in saying you did something wrong," Hull said.
But thus far, there has been no apology, she said. The family is taking things "day by day" before deciding on further action, Hull said.
In his statement to Inside Edition Digital, district spokesman Hall concluded with, "We want our schools to be safe and welcoming learning environments. When students have concerns, they should follow the appropriate steps for reporting."
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