Missouri teacher who used racial slur resigns; student who taped him suspended

May 16, 2023, 3:08 PM | Updated: May 18, 2023, 8:48 am

A Missouri high school teacher who was videotaped repeatedly using a racial slur in class has resigned from the district, while the student who took the video finishes serving a school suspension.

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 Welborn, 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.

“To punish someone in this situation who does the right thing, it’s absurd,” Welborn said.

Walton told her mother and others that she started videotaping the teacher after he said the slur several times, and her video captures him saying it twice. The teacher stopped when he saw she was recording.

Walton sent the video to her mother, a friend and a student in the video to ask for advice on what to do. She did not post it to social media, and it’s unclear how it quickly spread, said Natalie Hull, the family’s attorney.

The teacher, who had worked for the district since 2008, was initially placed on administrative leave and told to leave the building. His name has not been released.

Glendale principal Josh Groves said in a message to school employees and families last week that the comments expressed in the video were inappropriate and did not meet the Springfield district’s professional standards.

Walton was preparing to head to school Friday when she and her mother were notified she had been suspended, although Welborn had to go to the school to find out the reason for the suspension.

Hull asked the district during the weekend to allow Walton to return to school on Monday, but officials declined. Walton did not record the teacher to get attention and doesn’t understand what she did wrong or why she was punished so harshly, Hull said.

Stephen Hall, a spokesperson for the school district, said in a statement that the district could not discuss specifics about its actions for the “unacceptable classroom incident.”

He said the student handbook is clear about consequences for inappropriate use of electronic devices, which would consider if other minors were identifiable and suffered because of a “violation of privacy.”

“SPS is confident that the district appropriately and promptly handled all matters related to what occurred at Glendale,” Hall said. “We want our schools to be safe and welcoming learning environments. When students have concerns, they should follow the appropriate steps for reporting.”

The policy on use of electronic devices includes a line that says, “The prohibited conduct includes such things as audio or visual recording of faculty or staff in the classroom; acts of violence; disruptions to the school environment; or other acts prohibited by the District’s Disciplinary Guidelines.”

Hull said the district needs to reexamine the policy because it does not allow students to capture evidence of any wrongdoing, including possible crimes or misconduct. She also said it was unreasonable to expect young students to know the “proper channels” for reporting such events.

“Frankly, many of them don’t know if they’ll be believed,” Hull said. “It makes sense that they would feel the need to capture hard evidence and indisputable evidence.”

In a letter to Springfield Superintendent Grenita Lathan, Dan Shelley, president and CEO of the Radio Television Digital News Association, urged her to reconsider Walton’s punishment.

He said several court decisions have upheld citizens’ rights to record activity in public places and that the district’s policy on use of electronic devices “flies in the face” of those rights.

“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 our opinion, that makes her a lawful whistleblower, not a delinquent. She should be congratulated, not punished.”

Hull said Walton’s supporters are hoping the district will apologize to Walton, expunge the suspension from her record and take the opportunity to show students it is all right to acknowledge making a mistake.

Welborn said the district has not apologized and has said it will not remove the suspension from her daughter’s record.


This story was first published on May 16, 2023. It was updated on May 18, 2023 to correct the last name of the student’s mother. She is Kate Welborn, not Kate Wellborn.

National News

FILE - Homes burn as a wildfire rips through a development near Rock Creek Village, Dec. 30, 2021, ...

Associated Press

Authorities to reveal results of investigation into how Colorado’s worst wildfire started

DENVER (AP) — Authorities say they have wrapped up their investigation into what started the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history and will announce their findings on Thursday. The blaze destroyed nearly 1,100 homes as heavy winds pushed it across the heavily populated suburbs between Denver and Boulder on Dec. 30, 2021. Two people were […]

1 day ago

Kim Adams of the SOAR Initiative, a nonprofit that seeks to prevent drug overdoses in Ohio, packs f...

Associated Press

‘Keep them alive’: More states legalize fentanyl test strips to combat surging opioid deaths

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — At Cleveland’s Urban Kutz Barbershop, customers can flip through magazines as they wait, or help themselves to drug screening tests left out in a box on a table with a somber message: “Your drugs could contain fentanyl. Please take free test strips.” Owner Waverly Willis has given out strips for years […]

1 day ago

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks during an event to commemorate Pride Month, in the East Room of t...

Associated Press

Biden invites thousands of LGBTQ+ individuals, singer Betty Who, to Pride Month celebration

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has invited thousands of LGBTQ+ individuals to celebrate Pride Month in a high-profile show of support at a time when the community feels under attack like never before and the White House has little recourse to beat back a flood state-level legislation against them. Biden was announcing new initiatives […]

1 day ago

FILE - Former President Donald Trump greets supporters before speaking at the Westside Conservative...

Associated Press

The Republican presidential field is largely set. Here are takeaways on where the contest stands.

NEW YORK (AP) — After a trio of new announcements this week, the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential field is all but set. A handful of stragglers may jump in later, but as of now there are at least 10 high-profile Republican candidates officially seeking their party’s nomination. And with the announcement phase of the primary […]

1 day ago

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak watches a drone demonstration as he visits the Friendship Techno...

Associated Press

Biden and Sunak to focus on Ukraine and economic security in British PM’s first White House visit

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rishi Sunak for wide-ranging talks on Thursday as the British leader makes his first White House visit as premier. The leaders’ Oval Office talks are expected to cover the war in Ukraine, China, economic security, international cooperation on regulating the growing field of artificial intelligence, and more. Biden and Sunak have already […]

1 day ago

FILE - A sign outside the National Security Administration campus in Fort Meade, Md., is seen June ...

Associated Press

AP-NORC poll finds both Democrats, Republicans skeptical of US spying practices

WASHINGTON (AP) — As it pushes to renew a cornerstone law that authorizes major surveillance programs, the Biden administration faces an American public that’s broadly skeptical of common intelligence practices and of the need to sacrifice civil liberties for security. Congress in the coming months will debate whether to extend Section 702 of the Foreign […]

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

Missouri teacher who used racial slur resigns; student who taped him suspended