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Teacher warned for slurs in class

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2009 11:29 p.m. CST
Caption
(Joe Grace – jgrace@kcchronicle.com)
Geneva High School student Jordan Hunter (center) sits with friend, Lexie Tomchek (left), and Tomcheck's mom, Cara Tomcheck, at Tuesday's Geneva District 304 School Board meeting.

GENEVA – Geneva School Board members voted Tuesday night to issue a warning against a Geneva High School teacher, who a student claimed made a homosexual slur in his classroom last week.

The notice against teacher David Burk states that any further improprieties could result in dismissal.

Geneva High School senior Jordan Hunter, who is gay and said he was personally offended by the remark, did not think the board's action went far enough. He believed Burk should have been fired.

"I'm just disappointed," Hunter said. "I'm shocked, really. This is not an acceptable end result."

According to Hunter, Burk said during a classroom lecture on Oct. 5, "How do you feel about your tax dollars being spent to fund black [homosexual slur] taking pictures of other black [homosexual slur] in New York?"

"It was in extremely poor judgment," said Hunter, who attended the board meeting. "Not only is it a homophobic remark, it is also a racist remark."

Hunter said Burk made the comment while talking about how tax monies are used for the National Endowment for the Arts.

School board Vice President Tim Moran said the warning notice sets the stage for harsher action if such behavior takes place again.

"The reality is that there are legal steps that have to be taken," Moran said. "The step we took we believe to be the harshest we can as it stands now."

Burk did not attend Tuesday's meeting. But his attorney, D.J. Tegeler, said that Burk regrets making any comment that would offend a student and would personally apologize to Hunter if given the opportunity. Tegeler said he didn't know what exact remark was made.

"His intention was to teach," Tegeler said. "It was not to degrade anyone. He will work in the future to make sure it never happens again."

He apologized to students in each of his consumer education classes Tuesday for the remark he made last week.

"These words were inappropriate, and I am truly sorry for my actions," the apology stated. "The message I conveyed was insensitive and hurtful. That is not what I had intended."

Burk also said in the apology that he promises to learn from the experience and he plans to be more aware of how his words may impact others.

Supporting Hunter at the meeting was fellow senior Lexie Tomchek, a friend of Hunter's. She also said Burk should be fired.

"He has exhibited characteristics a teacher should not have," she said. "His judgment was so horrific, I don't know why he should keep his job."

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