When a Glendale High School student in Missouri heard her geometry teacher repeatedly saying the n-word in class, she decided to capture it on her cell phone. The teacher was recorded saying the racial slur two more times before he noticed what she was doing.
On the video you can hear the teacher telling the 15-year-old student, Mary Walton, “Put your phone away.” When Walton refused to acquiesce, he ordered her to “go to the office.”
Immediately, Walton texted the video to her mom, Kate Welborn, saying “I didn’t upload it, I just shared it with one friend,” but “[i]t spread really, really fast.”
Surprisingly enough, that 55-second video led to Walton being handed a three-day out-of-school suspension, which began last, Friday and she is barred from returning to the school campus until the following Wednesday.
According to the student handbook, “[i]t was the maximum penalty available for a first-time offense involving ‘inappropriate use of electronic devices’ at the high school level.”
Walton said, “I wanted proof that he said it so I could give it to the office and hold him accountable for what he said,” adding “I don’t think what he did was right.” Shortly after Tuesday’s incident, the teacher in question “was placed on paid administrative leave.”
When she found out about her own suspension, Walton stated “I was just confused because I don’t know what I did wrong. I feel like if I didn’t take the video, he probably would not have been held accountable, like he is right now. So I don’t know why I am being punished.”
What even prompted the teacher to start using the racial slur? Walton isn’t exactly sure, but did say “the teacher asked some of her classmates why they were allowed to use the slur but he wasn’t, which academics have said is a racist argument meant to minimize the Black community’s efforts to reappropriate the word.”
Josh Groves, principal of Glendale High School, sent an email out to parents on Monday stating he was “confident that the district appropriately and promptly handled all matters related to what occurred at Glendale,” continuing with “When students have concerns they should follow the appropriate steps for reporting.” Groves also announced that the teacher is no longer an employee of the school district.
While Welborn understands “that the district does not want students making ‘vigilante’ videos of any slight infraction by teachers,” she does think that in this instance, “this teacher’s actions needed to be brought to light,” saying that this could serve as a deterrent, “What you are tacitly doing is discouraging students from reporting whenever a teacher does something outrageous.”
Mother and daughter have decided to challenge what they believe is an inappropriate punishment and also want the district to apologize. Walton’s attorney, Natalie Hull said “the sophomore was essentially acting as a whistleblower by collecting evidence of an authority figure’s wrongdoing and that punishing her will have a ‘chilling effect’ on students inclined to do so in the future.”
Hull stated, “This kid did what we want people to do — see something, say something,” continuing, “Now we’re telling students, ‘If you see something, don’t show it, because then you’ll get suspended.’”