School District Finds Denison Teacher Had 'No Malicious Intent' In Use Of Racial Slur

Nov 22, 2019

Western Iowa’s Denison Community School District has determined a high school teacher who used a racial slur last week had “no malicious intent.”

The school district had been investigating the use of the N-word by teacher Crystal Holt in a government class.

"It is clear that this situation has significantly impacted the educational environment of the District," Denison Community Schools said in a statement. "It is equally clear, that the teacher had no malicious intent."  The school district is working on a plan to return Holt to the classroom. "I am putting all my focus on my students and classes," said Holt in a written statement to Iowa Public Radio. 

In announcing Thursday night that it completed the investigation, the school district said it will put together a cultural advisory committee that will draft a plan to improve the learning environment and make sure it is “free from cultural bias.” Students, teachers and administrators will be on the committee. A second committee of parents, educators, administration and school board members will serve as a liason between the school and the community. 

Holt used the derogatory term last Thursday as she and students were analyzing what a perpetrator said in a death penalty case the class was studying. The school district was told of this a day later, and launched an internal investigation.

“Many students reached out to the district for change in the manner in which controversial topics, such as racism, are handled in Government class and across the district,” Denison Community Schools said.

The controversy sparked a student walkout Tuesday morning, with students calling for an external investigation into racism and diversity issues in the school. At a school board meeting later that day, many people showed up to support Holt.  

In a text message, Denison High senior Chris Espino, who spoke during the walkout, said he is "more than satisfied" by the school district's response and effort to form a committee that will make sure there's no cultural bias in the school. 

"Having the students also have a voice by taking part in this committee is amazing," Espino said. "The last thing me and many people wanted is to have Holt fired. Having this new committee forming is exciting to many of my peers including [me]."

Holt is married to state Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison.

This story has been updated.