A Missouri student has been suspended after filming her white geometry teacher using a racial slur in the middle of class. Now, the girl and her family are calling for the school to reverse the punishment and apologize.
Mary Walton, a 15-year-old student at Glendale High School in Springfield, was informed on Friday morning that she was being reprimanded after recording her teacher using the N-word in class.
“She’s still processing everything, and she doesn’t understand what she did wrong,” Mary’s attorney, Natalie Hull, told The Daily Beast on Monday.
According to local outlet NBC 5 St. Louis, the teacher, who has not been identified, was placed on administrative leave immediately after using the slur on Tuesday. In a Monday statement to The Daily Beast, Springfield Public Schools said the teacher was “no longer employed” by the district.
Hull said the incident stemmed from a discussion between the teacher and students about the N-word.
In a video Hull provided to The Daily Beast, the teacher can be heard speaking to the class while the camera is pointed down toward a desk.
“I don’t like the word,” the teacher says. “It feels like when a Black person is using it towards another Black person…how is it not still a derogatory word?”
“I don’t get it,” he continues before being interrupted by someone else explaining that enslavers used to use the term.
“Is this word, ‘n-----,’ not allowed?” the teacher asks.
“Don’t say it right now, as a teacher, if you want to keep your job,” someone tells the man.
“I’m not calling anyone a ‘n-----,’” the teacher says, as the camera pans up and shows his face. “I can say the word.”
Then, the teacher notices the camera pointed in his direction, and tells Mary to put her phone away. He commands her to go to the office after she declines to stop recording.
Hull said Mary recorded the video and shared it with her mother and two other friends in order to get advice on how to handle the situation. Somehow, however, the video circulated and ended up on social media.
“[Mary] is not the one that posted it on social media,” Hull told The Daily Beast.
On Tuesday, Glendale High School Principal Dr. Josh Grove sent a letter to families, RiverFront Times reported.
“We are aware of a Glendale teacher using offensive, derogatory language during class today,” the letter read. “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.”
After being chastised on Friday for filming her teacher, Mary and her family reached out to school and district officials Sunday, requesting Mary’s return on Monday and an apology, Hull said.
“We have not had any response,” she added.
According to the Springfield Public Schools Student Handbook, electronic devices, such as cell phones, “may be in the student’s possession as long as they are not disruptive to the educational process or in violation of site use procedures.”
However, the handbook says students will be punished for using electronics “to record, publish or display audio or visual images of events involving faculty, staff or other students in or around school premises, without approval of school personnel.”
An additional policy specific to cell phones states “the use of an electronic communication device such as a cell phone, or a similar device is prohibited during the school day. This policy will be violated if the device is turned on or used during the school day.”
Students can receive a conference and up to three days’ suspension for violations.
As of Monday morning, Mary had not been readmitted to school, and Hull said the family was “researching options” as to how to move forward.
“We're not wanting to get involved in the conversation about what’s happening with the teacher,” Hull said. “Our issue is what happened to Mary, the punishment that she was given.”
Springfield Public Schools said in a statement that it “is confident that the district appropriately and promptly handled all matters related to what occurred at Glendale.”
“We want our schools to be safe and welcoming learning environments,” the district said. “When students have concerns, they should follow the appropriate steps for reporting.”