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.