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Harrisonville High School teacher accused of using racist language

Hearing lasts into early hours of next morning
harrisonville public hearing.png
Posted at 10:04 PM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-16 06:42:04-04

HARRISONVILLE, Mo. — UPDATE, June 16 | The Harrisonville teacher's hearing lasted until nearly 5 a.m. Wednesday.

No decision was announced at the conclusion of the session and will not be announced Wednesday.

ORIGINAL STORY, June 15 | The auditorium at Harrisonville High School turned into a courtroom of sorts Tuesday night, as a hearing was held for an educator accused of several instances of inappropriate language involving race.

One allegation against science teacher John Magoffin allegedly happened in April.

"Mr. Magoffin had used the N-word in its entirety in the AP Biology class," Duane Martin, attorney for Harrisonville School District, said during the public hearing.

Martin called on administrators and students to present their case.

"They were having a conversation about rap culture, and why the N-word was appropriate in rap culture, but not appropriate in other parts of society," Mark Wiegers, Harrisonville High School principal, said.

While investigating that incident, other students came forward with concerns.

"Mr. Magoffin had told her that her advisory class could not go on a walk during the mass break, because she is Black," Martin said. "She also reported that Mr. Magoffin had told her during advisory class that girls should not wear leggings, and that he can see 'everything hanging out.'"

That same student also claimed Magoffin was "fascinated" about her hair.

When leaders confronted Magoffin, Wiegers said there "no fascination" with the girl's hair.

"He said girls were talking about hair and John inquired what they used for curl and doesn't recall any conversation or talking about weaves," Wiegers said.

Martin then asked Wiegers to clarify that Magoffin did not deny it but, "just said he recalled couldn't recall."

"Correct," Wiegers said.

The Board of Education, which acted as the jury, also heard a third allegation, in which during a physics class, Magoffin referred to Martin Luther King Jr. Day as "Black Privilege Day."

"Student five said that he did reference Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as 'Black privilege' and at the time, he claimed that racism didn't really exist in the United States," Wiegers said. "He told me and my classmates that racism only existed in Germany, and it was towards the Turks."

Magoffin's attorney, Jean Lamfers, argued that her client using the racial slur in the AP Biology class is similar to using the word when talking about the Harper Lee novel "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"How is that any different than in the classroom?" Lamfers said. "This six-letter word is used in the curriculum. How is that any different?"

To which Wiegers said, "'To Kill a Mockingbird' is taught in English classroom, talking about rap culture is not a part of AP bio curriculum."

The board is expected to go into closed session to deliberate and will return with its decision.

If the board chooses to keep Magoffin on the job, his boss has asked that he undergo diversity and/or sensitivity training.