Denison High School students stage walkout after teacher accused of using racial slur

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DENISON, Iowa (KCAU) – Students at Denison High School walked out of their scheduled classes Tuesday morning protesting a teacher’s comment.

Those students said their civics teacher said the “N-word” in class last Friday, but the teacher, Crystal Holt, told KCAU 9 the word was used to help explain the day’s lesson involving hate crimes.

Several students in the class and in the school said even in that context, the word was offensive, leading to the public protest.

The Denison School District released a statement apologizing for the use of the word and said the district is conducting an internal investigation. But Tuesday morning, about 100 students from the high school joined together in front of the school, hoping to show how seriously they take this issue.

Chris Espino, a senior at Denison High School, spoke in front of his peers as they came together after the walkout Tuesday afternoon.

“Racism still spreads around this country, and I believe we need to have respect for every single student in that class and think about what we say when we are teaching,” Espino said.

He hopes his message is not only heard by students but also school administrators.

“It hurts me because I have friends, I have people around my life who were offended by that, and that’s why I felt the need to say something about it,” he said.

Faculty and staff members were close by as students protested during their scheduled class time.

Superintendent Mike Pardun stood in front of the building during the protest but did not comment about the incident.

“At this stage, it is an internal investigation,” said Pardun.

Some students say they want Holt fired from the district.

“If they don’t do anything about it, I might transfer because this school is just so bad. I’ve had so many incidents like bullying,” said freshman, Summer Juhl.

Others said they want the curriculum to be altered moving forward.

“Change deserves to happen as racism should not be allowed in the class. It should not be allowed anywhere, to be honest. Racism is no joke,” Kambree Hansen said.

These students said their walkout is more than about this one incident. Their hope is to help make sure no other Denison students ever feel uncomfortable in the classroom.

“We need to focus on all of our educators so this doesn’t happen again,” Espino said. “I believe we need to change our policies when it comes to educators using a derogatory term.”

The Denison school board is meeting on Tuesday night. While the incident is not on the agenda, concerned students and parents are expected to attend.

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