Court Backs Mo. Firing Over Racist Remark
Jim Suhr, AP, Las Vegas Sun, Feb. 24
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Missouri appeals court upheld the firing of a teacher who told her eighth-grade class she opposed interracial marriage and believed such couples should be “fixed” to prevent them from having children.
The attorney for teacher Jendra Loeffelman pledged to appeal the unanimous ruling by the three-judge Missouri Court of Appeals panel. Her attorney, Chuck Ford, said he would ask the entire court to hear the case or seek a state Supreme Court review.
Tuesday’s ruling affirms one last summer by a Jefferson County judge, who found that the Crystal City School Board was within its rights in ousting Loeffelman.
Her attorneys argued her reported classroom comments were constitutionally protected free speech. The appellate court rejected that Tuesday, declaring that the First Amendment right applied only to public concerns — not Loeffelman’s discussing a private matter that was not part of the lesson plan.
Loeffelman, the ruling suggested, also should have understood her comments could be harmful to the pupils, who included two biracial students.
Linda Schilly, the school board’s president, welcomed the ruling as affirmation that Loeffelman’s firing was just, though “very unfortunate.”
Ford countered that “This was not about a racist teacher discriminating; it’s about a teacher giving an opinion to a student who asked a question about an assignment in another class.”
Maurice Watson, the school district’s attorney, said Loeffelman’s comments “can only be described as egregious” and “reflect a perverse, private point of view that had no legal protection in school.”
Loeffelman, 53, told students in October 2002 that she was “totally against” interracial marriage, that interracial couples shouldn’t have children because they often get teased, and that mixed-race children were “racially confused.”
Parents and students said Loeffelman also said mixed-race students came to school dirty and are never accepted by society.