- A high schooler was suspended for recording her teacher saying the N-word in class.
- Mary Walton was suspended from Glendale High School in Springfield, Missouri for three days.
- School officials stand by their discipline of Walton, pointing to the student handbook for support.
A 15-year-old student at Glendale High School in Springfield, Missouri, is asking her school for an apology after officials suspended her for recording her teacher saying the N-word repeatedly in class on May 9.
Mary Walton was suspended for three days, from May 12 to May 16, after she recorded a 55-second video in which her geometry teacher said the N-word twice before realizing what the teen was doing and asking her to put her phone away, the Washington Post reported.
“We are asking for an apology and for the suspension to be expunged from Mary’s record,” Walton’s lawyer, Natalie Hull, told Insider.
School officials stand by their discipline of Walton
School officials have stood by their choice to suspend Walton for three days, the Post reported, pointing to the student handbook that outlines consequences for students who use their cell phones inappropriately at school.
Officials are “confident that the district appropriately and promptly handled all matters related to what occurred at Glendale,” Principal Josh Groves said Monday in an email to parents, the Post reported. “We want our schools to be safe and welcoming learning environments. When students have concerns, they should follow the appropriate steps for reporting.”
According to the student handbook, students are allowed to have cell phones in school “as long as they are not disruptive to the educational process or in violation of site use procedures.” It states that students are prohibited from recording others on campus — including teachers — without their permission and that punishment for a first-time offender could range from a parent-teacher meeting to a three-day suspension.
Hull told the Post that the maximum punishment wasn’t fair in Walton’s case because officials never asked the student her side of the story and only spoke with her mother after they had punished her.
“This is the perfect opportunity for the school to show their students how to admit when they made a mistake and how to apologize for those mistakes,” Hull told Insider.
“It would also be wonderful if the school looked at their policy because it does not allow for times like this — when indisputable video evidence could be essential to right a wrong.”
Walton’s geometry teacher said the N-word multiple times in class
According to the Washington Post, Walton pulled out her phone and started recording because she thought her teacher’s repeated use of a racial slur in class was wrong. The Post reported that the teacher, who has not been publicly identified, had already said the word multiple times before Walton started recording.
The teacher can also be heard trying to justify his use of the word, according to the Post, telling a student that although he doesn’t like the word, it’s still as derogatory when a Black person uses it to address another Black person. A student then responded that plantation owners used that word to address slaves, the Post reported.
The Post reported that the video shows him attempting to say the N-word again before a student cuts him off: “Don’t say it right now as a teacher if you want to keep your job,” the student said, according to the Post. “This isn’t a threat.”
“I’m not calling anyone a [N-word],” the teacher replied, according to the Post. “I can say the word.”
The teacher then pointed at Walton and told her to put her phone away, the video reviewed by the Washington Post shows. When she refused, he told her to “go to the office,” the Post reported.
Instead, Walton stayed in class and sent the video to her mom and a friend, asking for advice, the Washington Post reported. Thirty minutes later, the video had made it to social media, but Walton didn’t post it and does not know who did.
Walton continued attending her classes for the rest of the day and over the next two days as concerned parents contacted the school regarding the video, the Post reported.
The teacher was initially placed on administrative leave, but Groves on Monday announced that the teacher “is no longer employed by the district,” the Washington Post reported.
“I don’t know how much louder this has to get for Springfield to listen.”
Walton’s mother, Kate Welborn, isn’t sure how much more they have to fight “for Springfield to listen,” Hull told Insider.
“Language can be harmful, and Mary captured proof of her teacher, a person who is supposed to protect children, harming them through his use of a racial slur,” Hull said in a news release, according to the Post. “If he had been hitting a student — or worse — would the school have reacted the same?”
“Even though Mary got in trouble, her mother believes this is frankly good trouble,” Hull told the Post.