OGDEN — Ogden School District is issuing an apology after a teacher called a black student a "lazy monkey" which the boy's mom deemed to be a racial slur.
The mother pulled her son out of Mount Ogden Junior High School and he has not returned since the incident.
On Dec. 14, eighth-grade social studies teacher Judy Sepulveda, who is from Australia, dismissed her class and reminded Thomas Terry, 14, to leave behind a marker. Terry tossed the marker several feet to another student.
Sepulveda then called Terry a "lazy monkey," Mount Ogden Junior principal Trevor Wilson said. He talked with Sepulveda the next day after receiving a phone call from the boy's mother, Kiah Smith. "Certainly this is something we take seriously," Wilson said.
However, the principal said, after talking with Sepulveda, he is "100 percent confident she (Sepulveda) had no intention of directing it as racial or prejudice."
Sepulveda declined to comment Monday.
Smith could not be reached at press time.
Mount Ogden Junior has approximately 920 students, of whom 5 percent are African-American and 43 percent are Hispanic.
Sepulveda, who has been with Ogden District for 21 years, wasn't put on leave and is still teaching at the school. "I feel confident corrective action has been taken and it won't happen again," Wilson said, declining to specify what action was taken due to employee privacy laws.
The principal apologized to the boy's mother on behalf of Sepulveda, as did Ogden District spokeswoman Donna Corby. "Mrs. Smith and I had a very good conversation about learning from mistakes and getting the best education for her son," Corby said. "We say things we have to be responsible for. No one is perfect."
Wilson said Sepulveda would like to apologize but the mother hasn't responded to administrators' invitations for a personal meeting.
Wilson said he would like Terry to return to Mount Ogden Junior and hopes he does Jan. 4, after the winter break. "I want him back in school," Wilson said.
Ogden District teachers are required to go through diversity training. Further, new hires must have their English as a Second Language endorsement, which includes cultural training. But Wilson points out there is "no way to be foolproof."
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