Officials consider fate of teacher over comment

Thursday, January 9, 2003

CRYSTAL CITY, Mo. -- School officials are still weighing the fate of a teacher over a racial comment.

A second night of hearings Tuesday ended without a decision on whether Jendra Loeffelman should be fired as an eighth-grade teacher in the Crystal City school district. A decision was expected by next week.

In October, Loeffelman told her class that she opposed marriage between people of different races, and suggested such couples should not have children.

Among those in Loeffelman's class was a child whose parents are of different races. Loeffelman has been suspended with pay.

At the hearing Tuesday, Loeffelman she was unaware policy in her district prohibited teachers from making comments about race that might be hurtful to students.

Loeffelman, 52, of Bonne Terre, Mo., is a tenured teacher with 13 years in the district.

She testified Tuesday that she made the statements in response to questions asked by a student who was working on an assignment for another class. The assignment required students to write an opinion paper on a controversial topic, such as abortion or interracial marriage.

Loeffelman said she told the student she was "totally against" interracial marriage and believed that interracial couples "shouldn't have children" because the children might be teased.

"I don't want to see children teased for any reason," Loeffelman said.

"She said that biracial children should not exist, and that's what my son believes now," said Grace Bingham, whose son Billy, 14, was in Loeffelman's class. "Whether you have that opinion or not, that's your opinion. You shouldn't give that to students to take home in their heads."

Bingham says that when she telephoned Loeffelman to ask her about the remarks, Loeffelman told her that she had been unaware that her son is biracial.

Chuck Ford, Loeffelman's attorney, told the School Board that his client merely had given her opinion in response to the student's questions.

To fire her under the statutes the district was citing, Ford said, the district would have to prove she knowingly and willfully violated district policies against racial harassment.

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