(SPRINGFIELD, Mo.) — The mother of a sophomore at Glendale High School in Springfield, Missouri, is speaking out after her daughter was suspended from school for three days after she recorded a video on her cellphone in geometry class of a teacher repeatedly using a racial slur.
The 15-year-old student, who was identified to ABC News as Mary Walton by her mother, Kate Welborn, was informed of her suspension on Friday after the video was shared on social media and she is set to return to school on Wednesday.
“She doesn’t understand why she got suspended because frankly, she did the right thing,” family attorney Natalie Hull told ABC News. “She saw something happening in class and she felt the need to document the indisputable evidence of it.”
In the 56-second video, which was obtained by ABC News, the teacher defended being able to use the N-word twice in an exchange with a student that occurred on May 9.
“Is the word n—– not allowed …?” the teacher, who is initially speaking off camera, asks.
“I’m just saying right now, as a teacher, if you want to keep your job. This isn’t a threat from me,” an unidentified student says.
“I’m not calling anyone a n—–,” the teacher replies.
“I understand,” the student says.
“I can say the word,” the teacher replies.
The teacher then appears to notice that he is being recorded and says “put your phone away.”
It is unclear what happened before or after the exchange.
The teacher, who has not been identified by the school district, was “initially placed on administrative leave” and is “no longer employed” by the Springfield Public School district in Missouri, Stephen Hall, chief communications director for Springfield Public Schools, told ABC News in a statement on Tuesday.
Josh Groves, the principal of Glendale High School, addressed the incident in a May 9 letter to the community and staff, and said that the school took “immediate action.”
“We are aware of a Glendale teacher using offensive, derogatory language during class today. A video of the comments is being circulated and we have received several calls from concerned parents,” Groves said in the letter obtained by ABC News. “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.”
According to Hull, Mary shared the video with her mother and a friend, as well as one of the students in the video, but she said that Mary did not share the video on social media. She claimed that the school never asked Mary whether she shared the video on social media before she was informed of her suspension.
“Student discipline is confidential, per federal law, and Springfield Public Schools cannot disclose specifics related to actions taken,” Hall said when asked about the disciplinary action that Mary faced.
“The student handbook is clear, however, on consequences for inappropriate use of electronic devices,” Hall added. “Any consequences applied per the scope and sequence would also consider if minors are identifiable in the recording and what, if any, hardships are endured by other students due to a violation of privacy with the dissemination of the video in question.”
Mary is set to return to school on Wednesday following a three-day suspension.
Hull said that the policy against recording teachers and students is “very limiting” because it prevents students from “documenting news events or acts of misconduct” or participating in citizen journalism by capturing newsworthy events.
“When you look at what had happened to Mary … it sends a message to other students in the school system and has a chilling effect,” Hull said.
Welborn said she thinks her daughter was suspended to “discourage” other students from documenting or reporting similar incidents.
She is calling on the school to apologize to Mary and “expunge this suspension from her record.”
This is “the perfect opportunity for the school district” to show the students that we should apologize when we make mistakes, Welborn said.
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