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Official: Teacher violated policy with racially charged word

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A white Utah teacher and school board member violated district policy by using a racially charged word in his junior high class, officials said.

Weber School District spokesman Nate Taggart said appropriate administrative action was taken against South Ogden Junior High history teacher Douglas Barker. Taggart declined to provide further details, citing the teacher's privacy rights.

Barker used the N-word before showing his class of eighth-graders the Civil War movie "Glory," Taggart confirmed.

"That is not appropriate language to use in any classroom context," Taggart said.

Barker told The Associated Press in an email Wednesday that he was making sure his students understood why the word would be used in the film. He said he told his students that it is not an appropriate term.

Barker is also a member of the Ogden School Board, district spokesman Zac Williams confirmed. Barker was first elected to the board in November 2014, beginning his term two months later, Williams said. His term runs through 2018.

Ogden School Board President Jeffrey Heiner said Wednesday that no formal action would be taken against Barker in his role on the board. Heiner said he didn't know all of the details about the incident, but added he was confident Barker's "intentions were pure."

"He’s a very invaluable member of our board. … He’s been a man of integrity," Heiner told the Deseret News. "We rely on his knowledge and education as a classroom teacher."

The film "Glory" follows an African-American volunteer company fighting in the Civil War.

"My intent has never been to offend, only to teach for understanding with historical context," Barker said in his email.

Parent Holly Frye, who is black, said her 14-year-old son doesn't feel safe at school anymore after the teacher spent an entire period last month saying and defining the word.

Frye said the curriculum doesn't include anything about talking about what the word means.

"Because I’m calling him out on it, now (Barker) is trying to scramble and say, ‘Oh, I just wanted to teach about the word,'" Frye said. "That has nothing to do with the core curriculum and teaching the children about our history as a country."

Frye said she was told the movie will no longer be allowed in the district's junior high and high school classes.

Barker also violated district policy by showing the PG-rated version of the movie without permission from the building administrator and students' parents, Taggart said.

The original version of "Glory" is rated R, but Barker said he showed his students an edited version. Taggart also said the teacher showed the edited, PG-rated version.

Frye said she believes her son was shown the R-rated version.

Movie theaters require that all children under the age of 17 who see an R-rated movie be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Taggart also said Barker had the Confederate flag in his classroom last year as part of a large flag collection and took it down voluntarily.

Frye said she wants to see the school district take further action in response to the incident, including providing all administrators with sensitivity training. She would also like to see Barker removed from his teaching post.

"He, being a history teacher, had in my opinion a higher standard of care because he is a history teacher," Frye said. "He knows or he should have known how inflammatory that word is. He’s not a brand new teacher. He’s a … seasoned teacher, so he should have known."

According to Frye, Barker has returned to work after being put on leave. She said she is frustrated that "he still has his classroom as a forum to spread his racist views."

"That word is a malicious word, and it carries a verbal assault with it," Frye said.

Taggart disagreed with Frye's characterization of Barker as a racist, saying Wednesday that the school district's investigation found "nothing to indicate" racism as a motive for the teacher's actions.

Contributing: Andrew Adams, KSL-TV; Paul Nelson, KSL Newsradio

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Ben Lockhart
    The Associated Press

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