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The following letter was sent to Dear JCPS by a former Manual student. We are publishing it with permission from the author, amid what appears to be emerging as a systemic and pervasive pattern of discrimination that has been allowed to fester in a number of our schools under the previous administration. By sharing this student’s testimony with our followers, our hope is that this type of behavior can be eliminated from our schools once and for all, so no other students or staff will be subjected to similar treatment. Dear JCPS encourages JCPS to take swift action and send a clear message that discrimination, in any form, will not be tolerated.

 

Dear JCPS,

As someone who faced Mayes’ discrimination first hand, I’m glad that there is finally attention being paid to what’s been happening at Manual since he started there.

During my sophomore year at Manual, I was called down to his office concern a story that I was quoted in about a trans student. During this conversation, he attempt to assert that the reason he didn’t want this story published in the yearbook was because he didn’t want the student to face bullying from peers.

It was at this point in the conversation he looked to me, the only black student in the room, and stated that he was made fun of for black friends while in high school. Followed by “If wigger was a word when I was growing up, I would have been a wigger.”

He, to my face, used a word that combines a racial slur with white. As a young student at the school interacting with the new principal for the first time I was scared to react. I went back to classes thoroughly disturbed by what had transpired and feeling trapped.

Throughout the rest of time at Manual, he continue to suppress students speaking out. He continued his reign of bigotry across the Manual population. He tried to keep the BSU from forming and later during my time at Manual tried to change a story that chronicled the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. His bigotry didn’t stop with racism, but extended to the LGBTQ+ and disabled populations of the school. He has went unchecked for five years now. I hope this marks a change in that. It’s time that he is held accountable for the amount of damage he has caused.

Breya Jones
2016 duPont Manual Graduate

The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has had a similar experience with leadership in a JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form.

Dear JCPS,

I am a duPont Manual High School parent who has had several situations within the past two years  in which I felt that  Mr. Mayes has been racially insensitive, intimidating, very inappropriate, and offensive with his comments.  Upon hearing the recent audio recording between Mr. Mayes and two students who were a part of the Black Student Union at Manual in its entirety, I was appalled, disgusted, and saddened; However, I was not surprised, based on my past encounters and conversations with Mr. Mayes.  I took my concerns as a parent to Mr. Brad Weston, the assistant superintendent for Manual, Mr. Mayes’ immediate supervisor. Detailed below are some concerns I spoke with Mr. Weston about regarding the audio recording of Mr. Mayes and my past experiences with Mr. Mayes pertaining to my children at Manual.

While talking to the two courageous students about issues of diversity within the school and statements made by the football coach, Mr. Mayes said that the office of Diversity, Equity, and Poverty were inefficient/ineffective and screwed up.  He specifically mentioned Dr. John Marshall who happens to be the only African American assistant superintendent in the district. Mr. Mayes went on to say that everything that Dr. John Marshall’s office does is crap and their scheduled events are useless. Mr. Mayes also mentioned to the students that he made the mistake of saying negative comments about Dr. John Marshall before, and those comments got back to Dr. John Marshall.  Mr. Mayes told the students that he had to go Dr. John Marshall to apologize man to man.

These statements by Mr. Mayes were first of all professionally inappropriate.  For a principal to bash an assistant superintendent to other students without being prompted or even asked about the office of Diversity, Equity, and Poverty speaks volumes in my opinion. It speaks directly to Mr. Mayes  disregard of the district’s hierarchy. [Additionally, Mr. Mayes bashing the director of the office of Diversity, Equity, and Poverty to these two students who have concerns regarding diversity within the school and students being denied their 1st amendment rights by being told they had to go to the “field house” and kneel, if they wanted to kneel during the pledge is wrong.]  The office of Diversity, Equity, and Poverty is the very office that students should seek out when and if they feel that they are being treated unfairly and inequitably.  How are these students or any other students supposed to feel confident in speaking with the office of Diversity, Equity, and Poverty when their principal just told them how “inefficient’, ‘screwed up’, and ‘crap’ it is?  This, in my opinion, directly discourages these student from speaking to Dr. Marshall and his office.  Being badmouthed and torn down by another administrator to students puts the office of Diversity, Equity, and Poverty and Dr. John Marshall at a huge disadvantage, in terms of being an advocate for students who seek them out for help.

While speaking with the two students, Mr. Mayes also insinuated that they and some of their peers were only kneeling during the pledge or speaking out because it was the “cool thing to do.”  This statements by Mr. Mayes suggest that the students are not sincere in their expectation of their 1st Amendment Rights or in their support of their fellow students.  These students brought this issue to Mr. Mayes because it was a concern of theirs and their peers on the football team who were scared to speak out in fear of losing playing time.  Mr. Mayes said he doesn’t like it when people “jump on the band wagon”, and he does not really know what they are “protesting” for. [How likely is it that these students will ever bring another issue dealing with race, social issues, or violation of rights to Mr. Mayes or any administrator when this is the response they receive?]  Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that these two students will tell about Mr. Mayes’ defensive, inappropriate, and completely unprofessional attitude during their conversation.

As a part of their concerns, the two students talked about how racial discrimination, profiling, and unjust treatment of African Americans is very prevalent in today’s society.  Mr. Mayes quickly and very defensively began to talk about how he and other groups were also discriminated against and mistreated.  Mr. Mayes told the students it’s not all black and white.  He went on to imply that the religious discrimination of Protestants, Native Americans, and himself were equal or worse.  Mr. Mayes stated that he was 1/16 or 1/32 Native American and “his people” were kicked off their land and sent to reservations.  Mr. Mayes went on to tell the students that he has been passed over for various jobs four times because African Americans applied for the job.  These statements made by Mr. Mayes are appalling for several reasons.  Mr. Mayes took their concerns and immediately minimized them by comparing them to other groups that were discriminated against or treated unfairly many years ago.  [Mr. Mayes bluntly disagreed and became defensive with the students views that the unfair and unjust treatment of African Americans was very high in our current society.]

I feel very strongly that Mr. Mayes, turned this conversation about the students concerns into a conversation about himself and how he has been discriminated against.  Mr. Mayes mentioned an open door policy for students several times during this recorded conversation. However, when he questions students motives or sincerity, and then compares his being discriminated against to theirs, how are his actions supposed to make kids feel welcome or even comfortable talking with him about any issues they may have?  In my opinion, Mr. Mayes’ actions and statements made during this conversation will strongly discourage these students from wanting to bring any issues regarding equity, discrimination, or equality to him or any members of his administration.

I met with Mr. Weston multiple times earlier this year and voiced my concerns about how my daughter was targeted via grades, mistreated, and bullied by her teacher.  I explained, that I thought Mr. Mayes mishandled the situation, and did not act in a way that clearly demonstrated that he would protect my daughter’s best interest and advocate for her.  [Mr. Mayes’ lack of firm intolerance of mistreatment of  my daughter by her teacher created an atmosphere that condoned her teacher’s behavior.]  I voiced to Mr. Mayes directly that I thought race most definitely played a part in the mistreatment of my daughter and her feelings that she was underrepresented in her classes at Manual. I expressed to both Mr. Weston and Mr. Mayes that my daughter’s experience with Mr. Mayes and her teacher has literally changed her.  She is no longer the confident young lady that she once was.  My daughter’s anxiety level regarding school has increased tremendously.  My daughter also felt intimidated by Mr. Mayes during this time, as he “dropped in” her choir class a day after I voiced a concern regarding her teacher and Mr. Mayes’ handling of the situation, and stared her down for several minutes and then just left the class without a word.  Mr. Mayes lack of empathy and understanding mirrors his actions with the two students in this recorded audio.  These recent statements by Mr. Mayes about racism, discrimination, and Dr. Marshall’s office confirm my belief that Mr. Mayes is very culturally insensitive, dismissive, unprofessional, and inappropriate.

In a meeting earlier this year with both Mr. Weston and Mr. Mayes, Mr. Mayes also tried to justify his use of the terms “n***r lover,” and “Indian giver,” on several different occasions,  asking if I knew the context in which he used these terms.  Mr. Mayes failed to see my point, that there is no context that makes it OK for him to use these terms at all. In this same meeting, Mr. Mayes also apologized to me for making inappropriate comments referring to my wife.  During a phone conversation regarding my daughter, prior to this meeting, Mr. Mayes referred to my wife as,  “this beautiful attractive woman standing before me.”  Like any husband would be, I was offended and angered by his comments.  My questions to Mr. Weston then were, how is any of this OK?  What can we do about it?  After hearing this audio, I can’t help but think that we are in the same situation again: Mr. Mayes being inappropriate and racially insensitive.  It has become obvious to me that this is a pattern of Mr. Mayes again using racist, insensitive, unprofessional, and inappropriate comments to adults as well as children.

Lastly, my biggest concern with this audio recording and my personal experiences with Mr. Mayes is, if he is making these comments in front of and to students, what is he saying to his teachers and staff that work for him?  It is clear to me, why the current cultural climate at DuPont Manual is toxic, and at an all-time high.  In my opinion, it is a direct reflection of its leader’s views and opinions that he has no problem sharing with anyone who will listen.  I find it very disturbing that this is the person we have running the top school in the state of Kentucky.  I asked Mr. Weston what his plans were, in terms of addressing this most recent issue of  Mr. Mayes being Mr. Mayes.  Mr. Weston’s response to me was, there is currently an official, independent investigation in place, and that my email would be added to this investigation.

I know that recently Mr. Mayes has openly apologized to one of the students who was present during this audio and made an attempt to apologize to the student body, who were present at last weeks meeting. But what about the students who have been directly affected by Mr. Mayes’ cultural insensitivity, intimidating, and vindictive ways?   More specifically, what about those students who were affected by not just his words said, but his actions actually taken upon them?  He may have manipulated some, but he will not manipulate me, for I have seen the real Mr. Mayes, and so has my child.  During the process of change, there are setbacks.  What if that setback is at the expense of another child?

A Very Concerned Dad

The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has had a similar experience with leadership in a JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form.

The following letter was sent to Dear JCPS by a former Manual student. We are publishing it with permission from the author, amid what appears to be emerging as a systemic and pervasive pattern of discrimination that has been allowed to fester in a number of our schools under the previous administration. By sharing this student’s testimony with our followers, our hope is that this type of behavior can be eliminated from our schools once and for all, so no other students or staff will be subjected to similar treatment. Dear JCPS encourages JCPS to take swift action and send a clear message that discrimination, in any form, will not be tolerated.

 

Dear JCPS Board,

Various posts have been made, regarding DuPont Manual Highschool Principal Jerry Mayes. Considering the current climate in our country, as acts of abuse (both psychological and physical, as well as abuse of power), oppression and corruption are unveiled left and right, from the political arena to the entertainment industry, people are realizing that, in order to move forward into a world of justice and equality, it is necessary to speak up. We MUST speak up. Those who have been oppressed and silenced refuse to do so any longer. Individuals who have stood to the side and silently witnessed injustice are now speaking out against those who manipulate an archaic system that caters only to a very specific demographic, ignoring the rest of the population who, according to that minority “elite”, matter less than they do.

It is imperative we do this within our schools, as well. I am a former student of Jerry Mayes’, and though my experience with him was not to the degree of abuse and bullying that it was for Casey Hoke and Jahne Brown (both brave individuals I am proud to say are fellow alums), my experience was still, in its own right, an experience of bullying and abuse of power. Jerry Mayes’ treatment of those students who, borrowing words from a fellow alum, he felt were useful to him (and these students were mostly somehow involved in athletics), versus those who were not involved, or particularly enthusiastic about Manual sports was absolutely blatant. Many on his football team can be quoted as saying something along the lines of “He was great to me, but awful to so many others.” Anyone who fell outside of the boundaries of what would have been considered “traditional” was targeted. He was a bully. He loved enforcing and showcasing his power, the way one would casually play with a laser pen and a cat. Sometimes, these shows of power came out of nowhere, unprovoked, and it disturbed me greatly when I heard that he had actually been chosen as the principal of what is supposed to be one of the top schools in the country. When I heard about the case which is currently being reviewed by JCPS, and when I read the stories of Casey and Jahne on this message board, I was outraged. But I was not surprised.

It has come to my attention that a text message has been circulating within the JCPS community, entreating those who support Jerry Mayes to submit character references. I have no doubt that he was great to those who will come to his defense. My issue with most of these individuals is that they completely dismiss the testimonies of those who have negative things to say about Mayes. They call the experiences of Hoke and Brown “illegitimate” in the text, which is proof that, unfortunately, the outdated, good-old-boys-club mentality is still a part of the JCPS community infrastructure, where those at the top look out only for themselves, and not for the well-being of the students. This combination of discriminating thought and toxic masculinity is a rancid, festering block on the road to progress, and it is not only students who have been effected, but also hard-working JCPS staff, many of whom fear retaliation, should they speak out. I have been told by those who have worked with Mayes as educators and administrators that he also abuses his power among his staff, using intimidation, manipulation and bullying as a weapon. Am I surprised? Not in the least.

I, myself, personally have nothing to win or lose by speaking or staying silent on this matter. I do not work for JCPS. I do not have children. I do not even live in Kentucky any longer. However, the thought that, after all these years, and after all the progress that we’ve achieved in the way we think and relate to one another, these children, some of the best and brightest in the city of Louisville are experiencing this level of unapologetic ignorance, and are still feeling unsafe and powerless under the reign of this man makes me incredibly sad. We can do better than this. Mayes has those in his corner, calling for justice for him. I’m calling for justice for the students of DuPont Manual. They deserve better than this. Below is the circulating email in question. I don’t know if Dear JCPS will allow it to be published here, but I will attempt. Please, please, please, JCPS Board. Look into this. Really look into this.

Justice for The Students of DMHS


Greetings – thank you in advance for taking a moment to review this urgent message.

You have been identified as an acquaintance of Jerry Mayes – current Principal at duPont Manual High School. We are writing in an effort to rally support on behalf of our dear friend. We are hoping you would take a brief moment to write a letter on Jerry’s behalf.

Simply put, we are looking for character references based on your personal experiences with Jerry. These would be greatly appreciated as we look to overcome some awful (illegitimate) allegations. Additionally, if you were to know of anyone else that has or had a relationship (whether personal or professional) with Jerry, please pass this message along. We need all the support we can get.

Please send all letters to justiceformayes@gmail.com

Thank you so much for your time and support.


The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has had a similar experience with leadership in a JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form.

The following letter was sent to Dear JCPS by a current Manual teacher. We are publishing it with permission from the author, amid what appears to be emerging as a systemic and pervasive pattern of discrimination that has been allowed to fester in a number of our schools under the previous administration. By sharing this teacher’s testimony with our followers, our hope is that this type of behavior can be eliminated from our schools once and for all, so no other students or staff will be subjected to similar treatment. Dear JCPS encourages JCPS to take swift action and send a clear message that discrimination, in any form, will not be tolerated.

 

Dear Manual Parents/Principal Mayes’ Defenders,

I asked Dear JCPS to share this letter with you. There are many teachers of differing backgrounds and political persuasions who have experienced Mr. Mayes’ bullying, manipulation tactics, or stunning lack of professionalism first hand but will not come forward publicly because he has retaliated against and maligned staff before, even for minor perceived acts of disloyalty or disobedience.

Mr. Mayes has plenty of defenders and we are sure they’re sincerely conveying their own experiences. Consider, though, that it is harmless to a Manual employee’s professional stability to defend him, but it could cost them their livelihood or open them to professional harassment for an employee to speak publicly against him. The number of times he has acted generously or kindly to parents, staff or students does not erase the experiences of others who have spoken out, or the ones who stay silent for now. What we have seen repeatedly are not situations in which there are respectful differences of opinion in which individuals can agree to disagree, especially when there is a radical imbalance of power and, in a number of cases, explicitly expressed threats to retaliate.

Staff will share their experiences during the investigation if we are actually approached to do so and given assurances of professional protection. We are happy you had a good experience with Mr. Mayes, and we know you are not alone. Knowing that staff, students and parents have been treated differently has made it harder for many to speak out in the past. Until this investigation concludes, trust us when we say that your perspective is limited due to your own experience.

 

The views expressed here are those of the author. If you or someone you know has had a similar experience with leadership in a JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form.

The following email was sent to @JCPSKY Superintendent on November 8, with a copy to Dear JCPS. We are publishing it with permission from the author, amid what appears to be emerging as a systemic and pervasive pattern of discrimination that has been allowed to fester in a number of our schools under the previous administration. By sharing this parent’s testimony with our followers, our hope is that this type of behavior can be eliminated from our schools once and for all, so no other students or staff will be subjected to similar treatment. Dear JCPS encourages JCPS to take swift action and send a clear message that discrimination, in any form, will not be tolerated.

 

To Whom It May Concern:

There is some very important news located at dearjcps.com. Please visit that web site to see the 2 posts that have been made within the last several days alleging serious misconduct by the principal of duPont Manual High School. These posts have been made by former students and/or parents. They feel comfortable providing their names without fear of retaliation. I am a current parent who needs to remain anonymous for my child’s sake, but I have some information to add to these posts.

Both of these stories caught my attention because they talk about a toxic environment. I agree that Principal Jerry Mayes sets this toxic environment and allows it to exist. As a parent I see on a regular basis that he rules with an iron fist. Intimidation and the classic “old boy” network thrives here. As a mom I feel like a second-class citizen who is spoken to in a condescending way. Mr. Mayes creates a misogynistic environment where females feel less respected and our role is limited to only certain areas within the school. Unless you are part of his prized inner circle (of certain parents and teachers), you are meaningless. When I read the post talking about the pet names he has used I wasn’t that surprised. Demeaning names are classic tools used by men who try to use their power to belittle women.

Mr. Mayes rules by intimidation. He takes advantage of his position of authority (power) to get others to fall into line. A very clear message is sent to students (and parents) upon arrival at Manual – “you are lucky to be here, don’t do anything to mess up, don’t make waves, don’t question our authority, we can get rid of you because there are lots more who want to get in here.” New posters were made last year that addressed the JCPS push to curb bullying. I remember seeing these in the hall thinking “oh look, Mr. Mayes’s picture is on there, hmm, I wonder why they decided to put the biggest bully of all on the poster.”

Another way that the environment is toxic is that he perpetuates a very Christian-based tone to rule among administrators and faculty. Last year my kid told me that an administrator told a student that he was “straying from the path of Jesus” when he did something wrong. This year my kid sits in a class where the teacher often expresses her homophobic ideas and she scolds kids who don’t want to stand for the pledge of allegiance each morning. My student had a different teacher last year that often talked about her own religious thoughts and ideas during class. This is a public school where religion and religious beliefs have no place at all!

Thank you for listening. I hope you investigate these stories. The public needs to know what is going on inside the walls of Manual. Sensitivity training cannot cure these problems.

A concerned JCPS Parent

 

The views expressed here are those of the author. Because a copy of this email was also sent to district leaders, its contents are a matter of public record, subject to discovery under the Kentucky Open Records Act. We share it with our followers because transparency and accountability within our district remain our primary focus. If you or someone you know has had a similar experience with leadership in a JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form.

The following email was sent to Dear JCPS. We are publishing it with permission from the author, amid what appears to be emerging as a systemic and pervasive pattern of discrimination that has been allowed to fester in a number of our schools under the previous administration. By sharing this former Manual student’s testimony with our followers, our hope is that this type of behavior can be eliminated from our schools once and for all, so no other students or staff will be subjected to similar treatment. Dear JCPS encourages JCPS to take swift action and send a clear message that discrimination, in any form, will not be tolerated.

 

Dear JCPS,

I wasn’t initially planning on sharing my experiences with Mr. Mayes, as I didn’t want to come off as whining, and most of the issues I had with him were relatively minor when compared to the recent revelations. However, they do show a pattern of disrespect towards non-Christians, women and minorities. Ignoring “minor” incidents is precisely how people get away with behavior like his for so long; people don’t want to rock the boat, so many small stories go untold. I apologize for the disorganized, stream-of-consciousness nature of this e-mail, but it is what it is.

I initially knew Coach Mays as the head football coach while I played at DuPont Manual, and, initially, he was always nice to me. He worked hard to foster a sense of family among the players, and came across as a good, if not somewhat “set-in-his-ways” person. However, as I later learned, once he no longer thinks of you as “useful”, his attitude changes. I eventually left the football team, and did not play my senior year, because, among other things, I saw some of his bullying behavior towards other students.

He had a habit of giving nicknames to children and refusing to use their actual name despite repeated requests. Sometimes the names themselves were innocuous (he called my wife “Liz” despite repeated requests that he call her “Elizabeth”), and sometimes they were offensive on their face (he called a friend of mine who took his biology class “Mr. Lipid”; implying that he was fat). But the actually offensiveness of the names is largely irrelevant, it was the disrespect he showed his students by refusing to stop.

He would frequently tell students that he didn’t “believe” in evolution, but that he was being forced, as a biology teacher, to teach it. He would often have christian students bring their bibles in so as to teach the “truth” (i.e. that the textbooks were lies, and that the Christian creation story was the only real truth).

He frequently made sexist and homophobic jokes to the football players; I am somewhat ashamed that I didn’t call him on them then, but I was a student, and he was an authority figure. I can recall one time, on the bus to play against Seneca, he made some comment about finding a strip club, and as we passed the Toy Tiger, I said, “Well, there’s a club there,” and his response was “what are you, gay?”. The whole team seemed to get a great kick out of that one. He, several times, took me aside and said that I wasn’t keeping with the “team spirit” because I would not participate in pre-game prayers

After I left the football team, he called me at work (I worked at McDonalds at the time) to tell me that I was making a huge mistake, and that I would never amount to anything as I was a “quitter”, and I was “ungrateful” for all that “he had done for me”. He was loud enough that my coworkers could hear him yelling through the phone.

Shortly thereafter, I was given the first and only suspension of my school career, because he didn’t like the bleacher I had chosen to sit on for a pep rally. There was nothing special about that seat, I was sitting there because it was the next available one. However, he saw it as an affront to his authority, so he yelled at me for a few minutes through the bullhorn, in front of the entire gathered class, and had Big Gene escort me out.

All in all, these are, individually, small issues, and I am still afraid that I come off as whining, but I do think that they establish a pattern of behavior.

— Former Manual Student

The views expressed here are those of the author. Because a copy of this email was also sent to district leaders, its contents are a matter of public record, subject to discovery under the Kentucky Open Records Act. We share it with our followers because transparency and accountability within our district remain our primary focus. If you or someone you know has had a similar experience with leadership in a JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form.

The following email was sent to Dear JCPS. We are publishing it with permission from the author, amid what appears to be emerging as a systemic and pervasive pattern of discrimination that has been allowed to fester in a number of our schools under the previous administration. By sharing this former Manual student’s testimony with our followers, our hope is that this type of behavior can be eliminated from our schools once and for all, so no other students or staff will be subjected to similar treatment. Dear JCPS encourages JCPS to take swift action and send a clear message that discrimination, in any form, will not be tolerated.

Dear JCPS,

If I might offer another opinion in the discussion over Principal Mayes, I would like to say that he and I are the same age and we grew up in a Louisville that was just emerging from a drunken
Bacchanalia of segregation and homophobia. I was indoctrinated, programmed, hard-wired in a culture that everyone now finds appalling, offensive, racist, insensitive: barely beyond the primitive first step of Brown v. Board, and LONG before LGBTQ could even dream of being open about the truth they were living in secret – and I attended Louisville public schools in which my generation began to adjust to a new day. I attended Atherton in the day when the Rebel mascot was a confederate soldier: only in my senior year, did we realize those days were over, and belonged in the past. We changed the confederate Rebel to a Minuteman. Can you believe that? It wasn’t so long ago. I believe Principal Mayes is working from a place of good intentions, but perhaps is, like I, still struggling under the weight of the recent, and pretty gruesome past. I can’t speak for his experiences, but I have had the experiences of living for a few years in Africa, Harlem (Sugar Hill), and Hollywood – and I believe a few of the scales have fallen from my eyes. These racial/lgbtq bootcamps (for me) have helped me grow, but that has taken time and effort on my part. I believe my prejudices and biases – which I received in Louisville in my mother’s milk, so to speak – are not cured, but I like to think they are in remission.

My experience with Principal Mayes is that there has never been malice in his mistakes – or what I perceive as his missteps. I would tend to err on the side of charity, as I remember clearly the times in which I grew up – but my experiences have not been those of the other letter writers.

Sincerely,
Dr. Randolph Wieck
teacher, duPont Manual

 

The views expressed here are those of the author. We share it with our followers because transparency and accountability within our district remain our primary focus. If you or someone you know has had a similar experience with leadership in a JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form.

Below is the statement that was shared by @JCPSKY Board Member Chris Kolb at the 11/7/17 school board meeting. We are posting it here with his permission. Dear JCPS is collecting opinion letters regarding the JTown incident and SROs in schools, and we will be posting a compilation of them over the coming days. Click here to submit your open letter.

We encourage an open and respectful dialogue on this topic so that the district will be in a position to make the best decisions possible regarding the safety and well-being of our students, ALL students, including those who are most susceptible to the pipeline to prison.


From Chris Kolb
JCPS Board of Education
Member, District 2

Unlike almost everyone else in the city, I have had the ability to watch the video of the entire series of incidents at J-Town High School in their entirety. There are five different video cameras that captured different pieces of the event.

In this case, there was a completely routine altercation between two students in the cafeteria. No punches were ever thrown. The sum total of the physical contact between the two students is one push. The altercation between the two students is something that happens every single day in high schools all over the country. Should kids push each other and argue in an aggressive way? No. Are kids inevitably going to push each other and argue with each other? Yes.

Shortly after this push between the students, one of the J-Town (non-SRO) police officers rapidly escalated the situation, thereby creating a huge disturbance that put several hundred children at risk. Had that officer not inserted himself into the situation, I am completely confident that school staff would have kept the situation under control and de-escalated the tension, as they are very experienced in doing.

Law enforcement is only supposed to intervene when there are laws being broken, not in routine disciplinary matters. This officer clearly violated JCPS regulations by involving himself in a disciplinary matter. The officer’s actions were completely uncalled for and he put kids and JTown staff at risk. The Board of Education approves all contracts with law enforcement, and I will be advocating that the Board cancel our contract with the J-Town police because they violated the contract and, in so doing, put kids and staff at risk.

Definitive research into school discipline tells us that law enforcement in schools is like a security blanket. They make some people feel safer but they don’t actually make the school safer. For instance, one of the speakers at the Board meeting on Nov 7 who works at J-Town related that there are multiple doors open to the school that allow unauthorized people into the building. This is at a school with an SRO. I’m afraid I have to ask, if the SRO can’t even make sure the doors are locked, how effective are SROs? When law enforcement is in a school, we tend to neglect other more important aspects of security, thinking, “The cop is here so if anything happens they’ll take care of it.”

Our agreement with the J-Town Police Department emphasizes that law enforcement in our schools are there to create positive relationships between students and law enforcement. It’s difficult for me to imagine how having police in schools will create a more positive experience for many of the students who had a taser aimed at them or witnessed their friend being slammed to the floor without provocation, pushed, and shoved by J-Town PD officers.

Many people have asked, don’t we have to hold kids accountable for disruptive behavior? Absolutely. But we also have to recognize that kids are going to be disruptive. Some more than others. They’re kids. And there are proven ways to hold kids accountable for disruptive or violent behavior that do not rely on overly harsh and violent mechanisms that rely on excluding kids from school through classroom removals or out-of-school suspensions. Thankfully, Dr. Pollio sees the value in these mechanisms and is fully supportive of them. More importantly, however, what message are we sending about accountability if we completely fail to hold adults accountable for extremely poor and reckless decisions. Incomprehensibly, the J-Town Chief of Police concluded in a matter of a few hours that an investigation into the incident at J-Town was not even necessary, eliminating even the possibility of accountability. This is an inexcusable act of negligence and JCPS simply cannot do business with an organization that does not value accountability. If we did, what message would we be sending kids about accountability?

The sad and predictable irony of having law enforcement in schools is that they often cause the very problems they are ostensibly there to prevent. In this case, extra J-Town officers had been assigned to the school (by whom is unclear) due to a horrific instance of violence that occurred in a neighborhood home to many J-Town students. Watching the video of the incident at J-Town, it is abundantly clear that had those extra officers not been there, that nothing but a routine argument between students with no punches thrown is all that would have happened.

Given the excessive length of this post, I’ll have to leave that for later. However, I have been advocating for alternative and more effective means to make schools safer for over five years, dating to before I was on the Board. Thankfully, JCPS is finally in the process of implementing these strategies in several schools. Unfortunately, they have not yet been implemented in J-Town. I will advocate that J-Town be put on a fast track to implementation. I will not apologize for making decisions based on hard facts, evidence, and research about what is best for kids.

To conclude, I’d like to share an email I received from an expert on these issues. This expert asked that I not share their name for now since they don’t know all the facts about J-Town and they didn’t want to take any chances on their comments being misinterpreted. With their permission, I fused together two of their emails below, adding the second one to make his support for law enforcement clear. (Blanks below represented redacted text.)

Dr. Kolb,

I applaud your efforts in support of a “review” of the current system of local police officers assigned to our public schools. From what I have read, you raise legitimate concerns.

My name is __________. Most importantly, I have close ties to JCPS, with family members working in the District and a grandchild attending an elementary school.

Second, I am a retired lieutenant from the Louisville Police Department (now LMPD), former teacher with JCPS _________.

Due to my wife’s work transfer, we moved to __________ where I served as Director of Security Services for 7/12 years with __________ Public Schools, the largest in __________, at that time serving approximately 72,000 students. While in __________, I earned my doctorate in Educational Administration from __________. I then served as a college professor for 13 years before returning “home” to Louisville, __________.

I just share this bit of background with you because I dealt with some of the issues that arise when contracting with local police agencies to provide security to the schools. So many times, often with the best of intentions, conflicts between law enforcement and public schools create more problems than are solved, including the “loss of control” by the school district over the officers who work for a different agency, often with a very different mission.

I am more in the camp of schools providing their own security, along with establishing a close relationship with law enforcement through reporting of incidents and demanding professional response when called upon.

I urge caution. When a horrific incident occurs in a school or as we have seen this weekend, a church, many will call for an increased presence of armed officers in schools. But, is this what we want for our society?

I want to point out that as a former police lieutenant, I am very supportive of law enforcement. I want to encourage a positive relationship between the various police agencies in our community and the schools within their jurisdictions. My past experiences were “just that” at __________ and __________ High Schools. But, I admit that was several years ago (__________).

Certainly, anywhere in our communities, we would like to have a police officer present when a tragic event occurs (the church this past weekend), but police can’t be everywhere. Even with an officer present (Columbine High) these horrific acts occur.

Best to you in review of the current policy and system.

The following email was sent to Dear JCPS. We are publishing it with permission from the author, amid what appears to be emerging as a systemic and pervasive pattern of discrimination that has been allowed to fester in a number of our schools under the previous administration. By sharing this former Manual student’s testimony with our followers, our hope is that this type of behavior can be eliminated from our schools once and for all, so no other students or staff will be subjected to similar treatment. Dear JCPS encourages JCPS to take swift action and send a clear message that discrimination, in any form, will not be tolerated.

 

Dear JCPS,

I’m one of the many students coming forward about the issues being caused by Jerry Mayes, principal of the magnet school duPont Manual High School.

I tried to file a complaint with the HRC in May of 2016, with many allegations against Jerry Mayes. You see, I was president of the school’s Gay Straight Transgender Alliance and it was very clear that he had issues with us. I’ll list the following things I feel he did wrong in order:

  • Repeatedly pushed Christian ideology in a public school environment
  • Kept certain clubs from handing out flyers/meeting information at student registration
  • Let Christian clubs reserve larger meeting spaces at the expense of other, more ‘liberal’ clubs
  • Tried to keep the Black Student Union from forming in 2014-15, using the slur ‘wigger’ to defend himself
  • Censored the yearbook as to not include ‘too much’ intersectionality; wouldn’t let the cover of the 2016 yearbook be a gay couple holding hands
  • Pulled me out of class REGULARLY to discuss things with me that were either a distraction or not time sensitive
  • Asked me to keep a domestic abuse/student being outed and abused at home situation quiet from EVERYONE, including other teachers/my club sponsor/my parents after asking me for advice on the matter
  • Regularly dropped hints that he would ‘out’ me as trans and queer to my father, who he saw in public
  • Monitored the meetings of the GSTA regularly, outed and undermined students during meetings, and threatened to shut us down
  • Asked transgender students in private without any other faculty support in the room about their genitalia and medical history

Seeing as most of these things happened within my senior year at duPont, I would not be surprised if they continued to happen. I think it’s of the utmost importance that Jerry Mayes be reviewed in his position at duPont Manual High School before more accounts like this happen. If more dates and specifics to events are needed, I’ll be more than happy to provide those along with any eyewitness accounts of what I witnessed during my time at duPont.

Thank you so much for your time,

Oberon Waters

The views expressed here are those of the author. Because a copy of this email was also sent to district leaders, its contents are a matter of public record, subject to discovery under the Kentucky open records act. We share it with our followers because transparency and accountability within our district remain our primary focus. If you or someone you know has had a similar experience with leadership in a JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form.

The following email was sent to @JCPSKY Board Members and Superintendent, with a copy to Dear JCPS. We are publishing it with permission from the author, amid what appears to be emerging as a systemic and pervasive pattern of discrimination that has been allowed to fester in a number of our schools under the previous administration. By sharing this parent’s testimony with our followers, our hope is that this type of behavior can be eliminated from our schools once and for all, so no other students or staff will be subjected to similar treatment. Dear JCPS encourages JCPS to take swift action and send a clear message that discrimination, in any form, will not be tolerated.

 

Dear JCPS,

I’m Keni Brown, a parent of a DuPont Manual High School graduate. I am writing to express my concerns regarding Mr. Jerry Mayes, principal at Manual High School.

I’m writing because I have heard through the Manual community that Mr. Mayes is intimidating and threatening students, and being insensitive to the diversity of the student population. I experienced this first hand as a parent at Manual with Mr. Mayes. It was so terrible that I escalated my concerns to the public relations officer for JCPS at the time. Because it was not long ago, several parents and students know of the issues that occurred; and have shared with me the stories that are occurring now at Manual.

My daughter, Jahne Brown, was a student at Manual High School and graduated in May 2016. In Mr. Mayes’ first year as principal at Manual, Jahne asked to start the school’s first Black Student Union (BSU). We had no idea at the time that encouraging her to pursue this idea would cause years of intimidation by Mr. Mayes.

Before starting the BSU, Jahne had to get a teacher to sponsor the organization. Her sponsor was a Manual Jornalism & Communications teacher. The teacher signed the appropriate paperwork required to start the student organization. When the paperwork went to Mayes for approval, Jahne was called into his office by him. This is when the trouble began. Mr. Mayes told my daughter, who was 14-15 years old at the time, that starting a BSU is equivalent to introducing weeds into good crops and would kill everything. He told her there was no reason for black students at Manual to have representation or need a club of their own. He told her that she was part of the problem with black students at the school.

When Jahne shared this information with me, I contacted Mr. Mayes by phone. Mr. Mayes insulted me and my child during the conversation. Some of the things he told me included:

  • He asked me if Jahne’s father was in the home and his profession. Because she was misguided. I told Mr. Mayes that Jahne’s father is an Electrical Engineer who encourages his child to pursue her dreams.
  • To that he responded, he adopted minority children. He can’t be racist. Black parents like me are a problem because we don’t give back to our communities and adopt black children.
  • Jahne should be taught to accept the status quo. We are raising her to be a woman that won’t be liked and people would perceive as angry.
  • He told me that if she started the BSU he may have influence over whether she could participate in other extracurricular activities.

After talking to Mr. Mayes, I advised him that he could no longer speak with Jahne without the presence of an adult. He continued to do so multiple times and pulled her out of class to give her his personal opinions of the Black Student Union. The issue became so bad, that I advised Jahne that whenever Mr. Mayes contacted her or tried to talk to her, that she should ask the BSU sponsor to go alone or go along with her.

The BSU sponsor attended multiple meetings with Jahne and took copious notes where Mr. Mayes insulted or demeaned her, the club, and abused his authority. The issues did not stop with the BSU.

Jahne was also a staff member and later editor in chief of the Manual yearbook. The students wanted to profile a transgender student. Mr. Mayes came to the yearbook class and told them they could not publish the article because they were profiling a misfit who was going through a phase. He said that the lifestyle was wrong and that the students would be punished if they pursued the article. He threatened the two Journalism and Communications teachers who taught the yearbook classes and sponsored them in the afternoon at the time.

I am writing all of this to say that Mr. Mayes is not a first time offender. He has a history of using his authority to demean students of color. He has abused his power to threaten kids who have no recourse. He has a history of pulling students out of the learning environment to impose his personal beliefs.

I have been told that Mr. Mayes is telling students that he started the Black Student Union. I am shocked and appalled to hear this after I know first hand how Mr. Mayes took time and energy to personally harass my child for years. He should not be allowed to remain in place at Manual, or any school.

I am sure that my daughter Jahne would be happy to share her experience with you. She is currently a student at the University of Chicago. We are so happy that with our support and the support of caring teachers that Jahne was able to persevere. Unfortunately, every child doesn’t have the support system our child has; and Mr. Mayes is influencing their view of the world, themselves, their value, their place in this world and their ability to impact positive change.

Thank you for taking time to read my very lengthy email and to hear my concerns.

Best, Keni

The views expressed here are those of the author. Because a copy of this email was also sent to district leaders, its contents are a matter of public record, subject to discovery under the Kentucky open records act. We share it with our followers because transparency and accountability within our district remain our primary focus. If you or someone you know has had a similar experience with leadership in a JCPS school, you are encouraged to submit a letter using our open letter form.