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SALT LAKE CITY — A Bennion Junior High School employee is on administrative leave as Granite School District investigates an allegation that the employee used a racial slur toward a Black student.
Rae Duckworth, the operating chairwoman of Black Lives Matter Utah Chapter, addressed the public Monday afternoon, reading a statement made by the mother of the Black student that she is "disappointed and angry that our children are being victimized by people who are entrusted positions of authority."
"Teachers are supposed to love what they do while setting the example for children who are our future," the mother's statement read in part. "Thank you all for coming and I know my family is not the only one experiencing the discriminatory injustice. This needs to change!"
Granite School District, which has not released the name of the employee, issued a statement Monday saying that it "does not condone or tolerate the use of any type of derogatory terms or racial slurs in any form or context."
District officials said they have placed the employee of the Salt Lake City junior high school on administrative leave while they conduct a "rigorous investigation," followed by "additional appropriate action once the investigation is complete."
A statement from Black Lives Matter Utah Chapter accused the employee of directing a racial slur at a Black student on May 19. Granite School District said it had received an allegation that the employee "had used a racial slur in the midst of conversing with a group of students."
Duckworth spoke about her experience as a Black person growing up in Utah, and called for change.
"I grew up here, and I never had a teacher use that language with me," Duckworth said. "I had my peers, and it's different when it's your peers because you know those correction courses. I can tell someone, my peer, 'Hey, that's not right — don't do that,' but as far as someone who is in a place of authority in the building where he holds authority, man, my heart broke, to be completely honest. I am a mom; I would never want my child to go through that. I would never want anybody's child to go through that. The fact that it happened, I'm a little upset."
Granite School District released another statement Monday afternoon, saying that "every child deserves to feel safe and welcome."
"We respect and share the concerns presented by this family and look forward to the opportunity to visit with them directly as our investigation progresses," the statement read. "As previously stated, the use of derogatory language or racial slurs will not be tolerated in any context. The employee remains on leave until the investigation is complete and we will take appropriate action at that time. We would encourage any student or family to report unsafe behavior of any kind using the 'report a concern' tool on our website at www.graniteschools.org or using the SafeUT application for mobile devices. Both tools can be used anonymously. We appreciate the help and support of our communities as we work to ensure a safe environment for all children."