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.
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.
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.