A student at a Missouri high school recorded a teacher who repeatedly said the N-word. The student was named and suspended from school; the teacher was given anonymity and resigned to avoid discipline.
Mary Walton, a 15-year-old sophomore at Glendale High School in Springfield, will be allowed to return to school Wednesday after a three-day suspension for what the school district said was improper use of an electronic device.
Walton's suspension caused controversy, with supporters including the Radio Television Digital News Association saying she was exercising her free speech rights and documenting a disturbing incident that might have otherwise been ignored. Kate Wellborn, Walton's mother, said in an interview Tuesday that she was "genuinely shocked" her daughter received the harshest possible punishment for recording the teacher during class last week. She said her daughter's video clearly showed the situation and context for what happened.
Be under no illusion: kids are "improperly using" their pocket supercomputers all day, every day at school and no-one gives a damn. The school punished Walton not for the policy violation of classroom phone use but for outing a teacher who used racial slurs. We all have a right to record misconduct by public officials and its worth fighting to stop officials stripping students of that right for their own convenience.
A Klan meeting in Springfield, Missouri, c. 1920s. Photo: Katherine G. Lederer Ozarks African American History Collection (public domain)