Student, 15, Suspended for Recording Teacher Using Racial Slur

by Xara Aziz
Springfield Public Schools

A 15-year-old Missouri student decided to film her teacher while he repeatedly used a racial slur, but her plan backfired after she was caught and suspended, according to a Newsweek report. Now her attorney is demanding that the school issue an apology and expunge the suspension from her record.

Mary Walton, a sophomore at Glendale High School was allowed to return back to school Wednesday after the school district said she improperly used an electronic device.

“She wants things to go back to normal in her daily life,” Walton’s family attorney Natalie Hull told Newsweek.

The teacher, whose name has not been publicly released, had been employed with the district since 2008 and was placed on immediate administrative leave when the video of him using the slur first emerged. He has since resigned, a Springfield Public Schools spokesperson said.

In the school district’s student handbook, inappropriate use of an electronic device is grounds for suspension. But critics say Walton was exercising her first amendment rights to free speech when she recorded her teacher.

The student’s attorney says that it was unfair for the teacher to resign while her client was suspended, which will stay on her record unless the school decides to expunge the suspension.  

“He is very unlikely to have any type of mark on his employment record from this,” Hull said. “However, Mary gets a black mark on her school records—despite the pivotal role she played in bringing his misconduct to light.”

Walton said that she decided to record the teacher after he “interjected himself” in a discussion the students were having about the n-word.

In the video, the teacher is heard saying the slur twice, then stopped when he saw he was being recorded, she added.

The student then shared the video with her mother, her friend and a classmate but she does not know how it ended up on social media. When she was heading to school on Friday, she learned that she had been suspended.

Hull’s attorney is now asking that the district apologizes to Walton in addition to expunging the suspension.

“This is an opportunity for the school to teach their students to acknowledge that everyone can make a mistake; anyone can overreact, or react in the wrong way; and when there is a way to fix it, you should,” Hull said.

She continued: “There is no embarrassment in admitting when you are wrong and apologizing. In this case, we feel they overreacted in how they handled things with Mary, and they should apologize. Schools want students to do the right thing. Mary did. Now, we are asking the school to do that, too.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Spring Public Schools, Stephen Hall, told Newsweek that the district could not speak about the “unacceptable classroom incident” and stood by the student handbook’s policy of inappropriate use of electronic devices.

And Glendale Principal Josh Groves released a statement admonishing the teacher’s comments stating it was “inappropriate, inexcusable and do not meet the professional standards for Springfield Public Schools employees.”

This story is developing.

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