CPS teachers get in heated feud after one hangs African American doll from cord in classroom
Whitney Young Principal Joyce Kenner said in an email Tuesday that an official incident report was filed after the dustup and said the school would follow “the official disciplinary protocol established by Chicago Public Schools.”
Two teachers at Whitney Young Magnet High School swore at each other during a heated argument in front of students after a white history teacher hung an African American doll from a cord in front of his classroom, apparently offending his Black colleague, according to videos and an email from the school’s principal.
A video of the incident Monday quickly circulated on social media among Young’s 2,100 students and led to a swift investigation by the selective enrollment school’s administration. While police said they had no record of the altercation, principal Joyce Kenner said in an email to students and families late Tuesday that an official incident report was filed with the district and that the school would follow “the official disciplinary protocol established by Chicago Public Schools.”
A photo circulating among students showed the doll —a football player in a blue uniform —with the cord around its neck, dangling in front of a white board in the room in the school on the Near West Side.
“Unfortunately there was an incident in which a teacher hung a small stuffed African American football doll by a pull down string from a projector screen in their classroom,” Kenner wrote. “The teacher indicated he found the doll in his room and wanted the students to see if someone would claim it. A colleague approached the teacher about the doll and the conversation between the teachers became contentious.”
Both teachers are in the social sciences, according to the school’s website. The white teacher has been at the school for years, while the African American instructor started more recently, staff said. Neither responded to requests for comment.
In the video that was filmed by a student, neither teacher can be seen.
“Stupid,” one teacher says.
“You[’re] f- - - - n’ stupid,” the other teacher replies. “And you’re even more stupid [inaudible].”
The other teacher responds, “Shut up! Shut up!” In a comment apparently directed at students, he adds, “He’s wrong.”
“You[’re] wrong!” the other teacher yells back. “I’m not going to stand up in here with you, ... you making me feel uncomfortable...”
The video ends as the student filming hurriedly walks away from the altercation.
Kenner said the administration emailed staff Monday about what happened and also met with students Tuesday morning and “discussed the incident in length.We gave students an opportunity to voice any concerns and recommendations they had.”
She did not indicate whether one or both teachers might face discipline and a district spokeswoman said “the District does not comment on an ongoing investigation or personnel matters.”
Students shared a post in support of the African American teacher, suggesting the school should “free” him after he reportedly was not present for some of his classes. “Start a riot,” the post read.
Kenner did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“Mayor Lightfoot has a responsibility to provide a safe space for every member of our school communities, which is especially important in a district that serves a student population that is 90 percent Black and Brown children,” The Chicago Teachers Union said in a statement. “We understand the investigation at Whitney Young is ongoing, but practices that mitigate the harm of racial biases must also be ongoing and consistent in our schools. And any definition of “safety” must include creating and reinforcing an environment of equity and inclusion for all students, staff and faculty of color.”
“It has been my goal to create a community of respect and professionalism over the past 27 years as principal,” Kenner wrote in her email. “We strive each day to make sure that every student, faculty and staff member feels comfortable, supported and safe.”
Contributing: Emmanuel Camarillo, Tom Schuba