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.
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.