CPS custodian says incident that injured lunchroom worker was an ‘accident’ at 2nd day of principal’s trial

Custodian Brenda Hillie said Faye Jenkins tried to bully her into taking her side against Franklin Fine Arts Principal Kurt Jones after he threw a water bottle at Jenkins.

SHARE CPS custodian says incident that injured lunchroom worker was an ‘accident’ at 2nd day of principal’s trial
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Former Chicago Public Schools principal Kurt Jones takes a break with supporters outside the Leighton Criminal Courthouse at the first day of his trial earlier this month.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A custodian at Franklin Fine Arts Academy testified at the trial of former Principal Kurt Jones that she was called names and bullied by a Chicago Public Schools worker who has accused Jones of battering her.

Custodian Brenda Hillie took the stand Wednesday on the second day of testimony in Jones’ bench trial in front of Cook County Judge Angela Petrone and said that at one point the harassment by former lunchroom supervisor Faye Jenkins was so intense that she had to miss work.

Jenkins “was torturing me so bad I didn’t want to go into work the next day,” Hillie said.

Jones is facing counts of aggravated battery in the incident at the school in March of last year in which he is accused of throwing a hard, reusable water bottle at Jenkins during a lunch break.

Jenkins, who testified last week, said she was struck in the head with the water bottle, leaving her with a bleeding gash above her right eye that required stitches to close. Jenkins told the Sun-Times earlier this year that the head injury left her suffering from headaches and she was later diagnosed with a brain aneurysm.

That interview with a Sun-Times reporter resulted in the bench trial being delayed so her medical records would be obtained, but they have not been introduced as evidence.

Several other workers who were at the school as part of a skeleton crew that day — shortly after CPS’s decision to shut down schools because of the pandemic — have testified that Jenkins wanted no part in the game of “dodgeball” that the others were participating in.

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Faye Jenkins, a CPS cafeteria worker at Franklin, stands outside her apartment building, Monday, April 5, 2021.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Jenkins left the group to resume work in the school’s kitchen and was kneeling next to a fridge when Jones followed her and threw a child’s sneaker at her and then the water bottle, witnesses said during the trial’s first day.

While other employees testified Jones wanted to play dodgeball, Hillie said it was Jenkins who suggested the game.

Hillie said she started running from the room toward the school’s gymnasium and that Jenkins threw an apple in her direction. During the trial last week, the school’s security guard, Ariel Hernandez, testified he was the one who threw fruit at Hillie — a peach.

Because she was in the gym, Hillie said she didn’t see Jones throw the water bottle, but heard what she thought was “play hollering” and then went back and found Jenkins crying with blood on her face.

“It was just a little bit” of blood, according to Hillie, who said she suggested Jenkins put “some cold water on it.”

A few days later, on March 24, Hillie said she and other workers who had been in the lunchroom during the incident were standing by Hernandez’s desk at the school when Hernandez said “let’s get our stories together.”

Hillie said she replied, “What story? It was an accident.”

Jenkins allegedly then looked at Hillie and said, “F- - - her black ass,” Hillie said. “[Jenkins] said us Black folks gotta stick together” and allegedly pointed at her skin.

Jenkins then began calling Hillie names at the school, including “ass kisser” and “Uncle Tom,” Hillie said. “She was a real bully to me.”

Hillie said she believed Jenkins wanted her to change her account of what happened during the dodgeball game.

Wayne Kramer, a Chicago police officer who was called to the school to investigate the incident on March 31, testified Wednesday to hearing Jenkins call Hillie a “trick.”

In a video recorded by the officer’s body-worn camera that was played in court, Jenkins could be heard telling someone, “Watch she gonna go text him and call him. Go ahead, trick.”

Hillie said she believed the name meant someone who “tells tales” and “tells everything they hear.”

Kramer said Jenkins was angry when he told her he couldn’t arrest Jones because “there wasn’t criminal intent.”

A Chicago police detective who was later assigned the case decided to seek charges against Jones in June that year.

On Wednesday, defense attorney Jim McKay said he wanted to call that detective as a witness, but said that the officer wouldn’t be available to take the stand until mid-August.

Judge Petrone scheduled the trial to resume Sept. 2.

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