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The principal of Jones College was fired after a student wore a Nazi costume

Chicago Public Schools announced Friday that Jones College Preparatory Director Joseph Powers has been suspended “effective immediately, pending the outcome” of an investigation into his response to a student who came to school on Halloween dressed as a goose in a German military uniform. -walked across the stage during the costume contest and gave the Nazi salute.

The Chicago teachers union on Friday called for his removal, and students planned to walk out of class on Monday.

“As many of you may have heard, seen or read, there was an incident earlier this week where a member of one of our school communities wore a German military uniform to school as a Halloween costume, an act that was widely recognized by many students , staff and members of our wider CPS community as anti-Semitic. This incident has harmed many students and staff and is completely contrary to our values ​​as a school district,” said Pedro Martinez, CPS Chief Executive Officer. “In response, CPS launched a full investigation into the incident in accordance with our district’s protocols for handling bias-based harm. … In addition, CPS has suspended the school superintendent from acting as principal, effective immediately, pending the outcome of the investigation.”

In April Martinez refused to fire Powers due to “insufficient evidence of misconduct” after the high school’s local school board voted 8-2 to order Martinez to begin firing on allegations of mishandling sexual misconduct reports, mismanaging school finances and failing to address “systemic” discrimination. among other complaints.

“It’s been too long to wait and it’s unacceptable that this video has taken to happen given the level of anti-blackness that has been tolerated at this school for so long,” said parent Cassie Cresswell, a former LSC president who helped write the 11 Letters on One Page to Martinez and the CPS inspector general in February outlining their concerns about Powers. “But it’s a relief that someone in central office made the right decision.”

Meanwhile, this week students have delivered to social networks condemn the principal for his response to the controversy. U video posted on Twitter and TikTok, a student is seen on stage during a school costume contest, where he walked the goose step, a marching step heavily associated with Nazi soldiers, and gave a Nazi salute to a roaring crowd. In a photo attached to the post, Powers is standing next to a student in the gear.

In his first email to parents on Nov. 2 about the incident, Powers wrote, “Many of our students and staff came to school on Monday, Oct. 31, dressed in Halloween costumes. We held a costume contest in the afternoon during Ac Lab, which was fun and well received. Among all the other costumes, a member of our school community wore a military surplus army uniform. Staff and students have expressed their concerns about the uniform, believing it to be an expression of anti-Semitism. In addition, a video of a costume parade appeared on social media after that.

“I certainly understand and regret the discomfort and hurt felt by some members of our school community. Please be assured that we take the welfare of all students seriously and do not tolerate hate speech of any kind. In this situation, it certainly doesn’t seem like that was the purpose of the Halloween costume.’

But after outrage grew, Powers sent a second email the next day to Jones’ teachers and parents, saying the school should have approached the incident with “more caution” and should have “more clearly communicated the nature of the incident to the school community.” . »

“We deeply regret the pain this incident has caused our school community and ask for your partnership as we resolve this situation and move forward together,” Powers wrote.

He also wrote, “We want you to know that we are looking into this situation directly with the member of our school community who wore the costume in accordance with the protocols for handling bias-based harm,” adding that various CPS offices, including the student protection, provide support to students and will receive additional reports on specific harm caused to students.

Powers did not return the Tribune’s email seeking comment.

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Creswell told the Tribune that the school’s inaction on discriminatory incidents was one of the “major contributing factors” in the LSC’s vote to remove Powers as principal last spring.

“The truth is Jones had a long-standing problem,” Creswell said. “When racist incidents occur, the administration does not respond effectively, appropriately or safely.”

Creswell said she learned about the Halloween costume incident from a school employee. She then asked her child, who told her the student had been telling people he was dressed as a Nazi. She later saw the video online.

“There has to be a playbook of what you do, and what you do is not try to pretend that the kid’s intention wasn’t to look like a Nazi. It is obvious that this is his intention,” she said.

The CTU alleges that parents, teachers and support staff have repeatedly raised concerns about the culture of intolerance at Jones but have been “generally ignored”.

“There should never, ever be a context in which children feel uncomfortable or unsafe inside a school building,” CTU said in a statement. “Jones is over 50% students of color, and the current climate of rampant bigotry and racial intolerance is completely unacceptable. All schools need leadership that provides a safe and inclusive environment for every student and adult who walks through their doors.”



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