Staffer at Utah junior high on leave after allegedly calling a Black student the N-word

Granite School District said it will investigate while the employee is on leave.

(Bennion Junior High Facebook) Pictured is Bennion Junior High in Granite School District. A school employee there is under investigation after an allegation that he called a student the N-word.

An employee at a Utah junior high school is on leave after reports that he called a Black student the N-word.

Several students who say they witnessed the staff member at Bennion Junior High use the slur have posted about it on social media, saying they were shocked to hear it. Some are identifying the employee as an administrator and calling for him to be fired.

Granite School District confirmed Thursday that it was investigating allegations that a staffer had used a racist slur “in the midst of conversing with a group of students.”

The students say the employee called out a female student as she joined a protest at the school in favor of abortion rights.

The district released a statement, saying it doesn’t condone or tolerate “the use of any type of derogatory terms or racial slurs in any form or context.” The employee is now on administrative leave while the district investigates.

“The district will take additional appropriate action once the investigation is complete,” the statement noted.

This is the second reported racist incident involving a school employee this week at Granite School District, which is one of the most diverse in the state, with a population that is 54% students of color.

On Tuesday, the district said it received a report of “a very serious allegation of harassment and racism” regarding an assistant principal at Bonneville Junior High School in Holladay. The district declined to detail, specifically, what the alleged mistreatment entailed.

That employee has also been placed on administrative leave during an investigation. The district said that review will move forward, even as the employee is slated to retire shortly, at the end of this school year.

“We appreciate the parent and student bringing this concern to our attention so that it can be addressed,” the district said in a statement.

Granite is required under state law to provide dozens of hours of training on topics of equity and diversity annually, said spokesperson Ben Horsley. The district will assess whether more employee training is necessary after these incidents.

Rae Duckworth, president of the Utah chapter of Black Lives Matter, said: “It’s 2022. We need to be actively anti-racist and check those around us.”

The incidents in Granite School District come after Davis School District, to the north, was investigated by the Utah Department of Justice last year in a report that has gained national attention.

Federal investigators found administrators in Davis intentionally ignored “serious and widespread” racial harassment in its schools for years — failing to respond to hundreds of reports from Black students after they have been called slaves, the N-word, and heard threats that they would be lynched.

Shortly after that report came out, a 10-year-old Black student, Izzy Tichenor, died by suicide. Her mom has said Izzy was bullied for being Black and autistic. An independent review team hired by the district said it couldn’t confirm that, but did note that several teachers treated Izzy in ways that most would find “offensive.”