Chicago Public Schools officials have started the disciplinary process against a principal accused of giving a lunchroom worker a concussion, the district confirmed Monday, as a report he filed appeared to downplay the incident as “horseplay” and a “game of dodgeball,” according to records newly obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
It wasn’t clear what type of punishment could be handed down to Kurt Jones, the principal at Franklin Elementary Fine Arts Center, who was still on the job last week nearly two months after he allegedly threw a water bottle that hit an employee in the head.
A report filed by Jones lays out a more playful version of events than the Chicago police report filed in the case and accounts previously reported by the Sun-Times from the injured worker and her colleague who was a witness.
Detectives are still investigating the case, a Chicago police spokesman said Monday. Jones has not been charged with a crime, nor has he been publicly identified by CPD as the offender in the case.
Asked if it was appropriate for adults, including a school principal, to play dodgeball with water bottles in a school setting, CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton said “reports of the incident [were] the premise for the law department’s investigation.” As a result, “the district has initiated disciplinary proceedings,” she said, which would determine the discipline Jones will face.
The CPS incident report obtained by the Sun-Times through a public records request includes an event narrative that says those involved were “laughing and playing” the afternoon of March 20, when a skeleton crew was at the school for meal distribution during the coronavirus school closures.
“After the essential team gathered completed lunch and the food serving for students the team engaged in a game of dodgeball, a continuation of a game started Thursday, March 19,” Jones wrote in the report, going on to say a basketball and a roll of paper towels were thrown back and forth between Jones and employees, including the lunchroom worker, Faye Jenkins.
“From there the individual ran into the hallway and were throwing different items, laughing and playing,” the report says. “From the kitchen door Mr. Jones threw a plastic kid cup, that hit Ms. Faye in the glasses.”
Jenkins said Monday she “never played dodgeball with Mr. Jones, there was never a dodgeball game,” and called the report he filed a “total lie.”
“I have not thrown anything at this man, I have not engaged in any dodgeball with this man,” Jenkins said. “If the roles were reversed, what would happen to me? This is an assault on me. And I’m angry because I feel like I’m an African American woman, I’m almost 50 years old, and nothing’s getting done. ... I just want justice.”
Jones did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
The narrative in his report strays from the one in a Chicago police report, also obtained by the Sun-Times, and the story told by Jenkins and a colleague last month. Notably, Jenkins, her fellow lunchroom worker and the police report all said the object that hit her in the face was a water bottle, not a “plastic kid cup.” Jenkins and her coworker also said Jenkins told Jones she “wasn’t playing” before he allegedly threw the bottle.
Four people are listed on the CPS report as “engaging in behavior,” including Jones, while Jenkins is listed as a victim and another is a witness. Of those six, five are marked as “willing to testify.” Jones is the only one unwilling.
Nearly an entire page of testimony from a witness was redacted because, according to the district, it was “preliminary” information “in which opinions are expressed, or policies or actions formulated.”
Another records request returned five letters detailing complaints against Jones since November, four of which the district previously confirmed existed. The fifth is an unsigned letter to Franklin’s elected Local School Council decrying a “lack of professionalism Mr. Jones displays on any given day,” and that parents “feel unwelcome in the building due to highly negative interactions with Mr. Jones, where they were talked down to, yelled at, dismissed or ignored.”
Jones has been the subject of two other known investigations in recent months. In one, he was issued a verbal reprimand this spring after video surfaced of a December 2018 incident in which a man identified by witnesses as Jones was seen tossing a chair from a second-floor balcony in the lunchroom at Franklin.