Lee’s Summit teacher defends use of N-word, says he was repeating student during disciplinary process

Education

LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — Lee’s Summit School Superintendent David Buck says Joe Oswald, a middle school teacher and coach, should be fired for immoral conduct.

But the 27-year veteran with the school district requested a hearing Wednesday night, saying he was only repeating what a student said.

Oswald said he was walking a student from the lunchroom to the office at Pleasant Lea Middle School on May 6 after she said the n-word. Lee’s Summit Schools has teachers fill out green slips with details on what students did wrong. Oswald said he always reads it to students so they understand why they’re facing discipline.

“What he will testify is that he has consistently been told to do in his employment with this district is accurately state, even if it uses profanity or in this case a racial slur, to use it exactly,” Oswald’s attorney Michael McDorman told the school board during the hearing.

Oswald saying the n-word twice in the presence of the girl and another student who overheard prompted a human resources investigation.

“Even though it wasn’t in violation of policy A-C, were you still concerned with the conduct?” Michelle Basie, an attorney representing the district in the hearing, asked the human resources director.

“It’s not OK to use the n-word in front of our students of color and in front of kids, and I found it to be in violation of other policies,” David Carlson responded.

“Mr. Oswald repeated this word twice despite numerous trainings on the importance of positive relationships, trauma-informed education, cultural sensitivity and social emotional learning. Mr. Oswald’s conduct in this instance caused harm to students in the community,” Basie told the school board.

Carlson recommended Oswald get diversity training, but now Oswald is facing termination. He has the support of at least some of his fellow teachers who were in the audience for the hearing.

“It speaks to his character. He’s been in Lee’s Summit, he’s given everything to Lee’s Summit School District and the students here,” Marcie Hess said.

After more than 1,000 people signed a petition in support of “Coach O,” the school district held a lottery to accommodate seating an hour before the public hearing. That led to empty seats and frustrated supporters.

“I showed up an hour early. I left work an hour early to get here an hour early, so I could be there to sit there in support for my friend, and they told me no at the door, go watch it on YouTube,” Carl Stratton said.

Oswald won’t find out if he keeps his job until after the Lee’s Summit School Board holds a closed session. That’s expected to happen by July 13.

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