TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (ABC4) – Representatives of the Granite School District (GSD) have released a follow up statement on an allegedly racist incident that occurred at Bennion Junior High School (BJHS) last spring.
On May 19 of 2022 the Granite School District reportedly received an allegation that an employee had used a racial slur while conversing with a group of students. Sally Mortensen, a student at BJHS, said “I heard, I hate all you ‘n word’. And looked up and I’m like what?”
Initially, the school district released a short response to the incident, which read:
“The GSD does not condone or tolerate the use of any type of derogatory terms or racial slurs in any form or context. For this reason, the employee has been placed on administrative leave while we conduct a rigorous investigation. The District will take additional appropriate action once the investigation is complete.”
Roughly three months later, on August 18, officials of GSD released a second statement regarding the incident.
In the media release published Thursday, representatives of GSD started off by acknowledging the actions that have been taken to mend the offense, stating, “we have met with these representatives (of the incident)… several times, with the last meeting occurring July 11. Additionally, we have spent time with other community advocacy groups including the NAACP, to review the incident, and our policies, with a desire to work together in the best interest of our students and ensuring a safe and inclusive environment within our schools.”
According to representatives, information gathered from a comprehensive investigation of the incident does not demonstrate that the BJHS employee called the student a racial slur. Instead, the evidence suggests that a group of students involved in a student-led protest “used the racial slur as part of an exchange with the employee. Thereafter, the employee addressed the use of the word by students (by actually using the slur),” representatives explained.
Despite the fact that the school district states “the use of a racial slur in any context is wholly unacceptable and very inappropriate,” they also note that the employee was not terminated, though he was “appropriately disciplined and suspended.” Furthermore, representatives say that “the employee was transferred in an effort to help this student feel comfortable going back to this school location in the fall.”
It’s important to note that all of the information and evidence gathered through the investigation of this incident was presented to Black Lives Matter representatives over the course of several meetings. According to GSD, “multiple statements were made by BLM representatives in those meetings and from the family (immediately after the incident occurred), that based on the evidence we had, the employee in question should be disciplined, but not terminated.”
The agency added that “the District stands by the corrective action taken,” and that they also referred the incident to Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission at the Utah State Board of Education for further review and potential action. Representatives added that “if at any time, we receive additional information or evidence that lends itself to further the investigation or action taken, we will do so.”
Officials closed off the statement by paying tribute to what the school district stands for, saying “the District remains committed to work with our partners at the NAACP and other community members, patrons, students and advocacy groups to ensure every student and family feels safe and welcome in our schools. This work will never stop and must be an ongoing effort of continuous improvement.”