Terminated Harrisonville teacher accused of using racial slur says he has few regrets

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HARRISONVILLE, Mo. –  The Harrisonville School Board voted to fire a teacher accused of using a racial slur during his advanced placement biology class.

But John Magoffin denies those claims and says it’s likely impossible for a teacher facing accusations of racism to get a fair investigation right now by a school district. Now he and his attorney are vowing to take the case to court.

The board met in closed session Wednesday night to discuss testimony of a nearly 12-hour public hearing last month.

“He used the phrase N-word this, N-word that,”  one student said during the hearing.

Multiple students testified at a public hearing requested by Magoffin that they heard him use the N-word in class.

“To think that I used the whole word is like seeing a pig fly across the sky. It’s just something I couldn’t wrap my head around. I didn’t want to sit there and tell my students they are liars. They may genuinely remember that. That doesn’t mean that’s the way it happened,” Magoffin said Thursday sitting down with FOX4 for an interview.

Administrators testified in the course of their investigation students remembered him referring to Martin Luther King Day as black privilege day.

“The Martin Luther King thing, that never happened,” Magoffin said.

Administrators also testified a Black female student accused him of treating her differently and making remarks about her birthing hips. Accusations he says could be refuted by other teachers.

“When I heard the Assistant Superintendent say they didn’t think it was worth weighing the faculty testimony I understood that this wasn’t going to be fair,” Magoffin said of the hearing that lasted past 4 a.m.

Thursday Magoffin learned he’d been fired after a 4-3 vote by the Harrisonville School Board which concluded that “Mr. Magoffin’s use of inappropriate language violated the rules and regulations of the District and was unacceptable conduct for a tenured teacher in the District.”

Magoffin says he doesn’t regret not taking the district’s offer to resign so the accusations wouldn’t become public nor his attempts to answer a student’s question about appropriation of the N-word in his A.P. biology class.

“I regret that I’ve been so mischaracterized by people that I thought knew that the man they knew for nine years is still that man,” he said.

Now he vows to continue to fight the termination, not just for himself.

“A lot is at stake for those students and for my colleagues to continue to try to do the complicated work of teaching students,” he said.

The case will likely now go to circuit court on appeal. Magoffin’s attorney, Jean Lamfers said in a statement her client was denied due process during the investigation.

“He bears no ill will against students who came forward and finds fault with the administrators for not equally applying district rules to him and to other district employees. He takes issue with the administration for not having seen to the proper adoption of regulations in July 2020, which the administrators charged him under, and for not following the law regarding due process and the Teacher Tenure Act’s termination protocols. The board’s decision masks the administration’s mishandling of the entire matter from beginning to end at Mr. Magoffin’s expense. Allowing the administration to place him on leave without board approval, in the first instance on April 20, denied him equal protection of the law and violated due process. Allowing the administration to fail to take any action to investigate his credible complaints of threats made by the family of a district employee, who violated district confidentiality rules by posting false allegations and using inappropriate language directed at him, exacerbated the situation and violated his rights. Mr. Magoffin’s declaratory judgment action in Cole County, on constitutional and procedural issues, will proceed and he plans to appeal the board’s decision,” the statement read.

After announcing Magoffin’s termination, the Harrisonville Board of Education released a statement and said “We commend the students and parents in bringing forth their concerns to the administration so that this matter could be appropriately addressed.”

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