Student Gets Suspended for Recording Teacher Using Slur

School district says she violated policy on electronic devices
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2023 7:17 PM CDT

A 15-year-old high school student used her phone to record remarks from a teacher that the school district acknowledged were "inexcusable"—but she was still suspended for violating school policy on electronic devices. Mary Walton, a sophomore at Glendale High School in Springfield, Missouri, recorded a 55-second video last Tuesday in which her geometry teacher used the n-word twice, the Washington Post reports. Her lawyer says the teacher had already used the racial slur repeatedly before Walton started recording him.

In Walton's video, a student could be heard telling the teacher: "Don’t say it right now as a teacher if you want to keep your job. The teacher repeated the slur in his response, saying, "I can say the word." The teacher ordered Walton to go to the office when he saw her using her phone, but she stayed put. She sent the video to her mother, a friend, and a student in the class. Lawyer Natalie Hull says Walton didn't share the video on social media, but it ended up there within around 30 minutes. The teacher, who was initially placed on administrative leave, has now resigned from the district, the AP reports.

School officials say Walton violated school policy on recording staff or students without permission. She received the maximum punishment—a three-day suspension that began Friday and ended Tuesday. The teen and her mother want the district to apologize and wipe the suspension from the record. Hull says Walton was acting as a whistleblower by exposing the teacher's wrongdoing and punishing her will have a "chilling effect" on others, reports the Post.

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Walton's supporters include Dan Shelley, president and CEO of the Radio Television Digital News Association, the AP reports. "The student says she was recording the teacher’s alleged racist remarks for the express purpose of making a record of the incident should the events in the classroom at that moment come into dispute," Shelley wrote in a letter to Springfield Superintendent Grenita Lathan. "In our opinion, that makes her a lawful whistleblower, not a delinquent. She should be congratulated, not punished." (More Missouri stories.)

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