The school district declined an interview request from Mudede because he is the student's father and attorneys are involved. But two school district attorneys agreed to speak to me.
"The district agrees that it is not acceptable for a teacher in our district to ask a student to leave a classroom for the reasons that this child was asked to leave,” says Kevin O’Neill, senior assistant general counsel for Seattle Public Schools, the attorney who is handling the case of Mudede’s daughter.
The district’s position, in a nutshell, is that the teacher erred by kicking out the student, but race wasn’t a factor and an investigation is underway. However, O’Neill also says he doesn’t know what exactly happened or “the reasons that this child was asked to leave.” Until the investigation is complete, he says, it’s unclear what was offensive about the hair product that reportedly made the teacher sick, why the district hadn’t done anything for three days, whether an incident like this had ever occurred before, whether anyone had spoken to the teacher about the incident, whether school district rules prohibit any cosmetics, or what current or future steps are required for the investigation.The Stranger questions how the district is so firm that this is not about race but yet the district hasn't completed its investigation. What the district says:
“Based on preliminary information I have, it is clear that the removal of the student, as inappropriate as it was, had to do with a health issue and not a racial issue,” he says. “To the extent of the health issues, what was said to the child, the circumstances, that is a matter that is still under investigation. Based on our preliminary investigation, it isn’t a result of racial animosity, as far as I understand.”
According to O'Neill, the district is encouraging the family to return the child to school. What is Mr. Mudede's comment?
However, Charles notes that he and his wife haven’t wanted to return their child to school “until the teacher had medical proof that our daughter's hair or something in her hair was to blame for the [teacher’s] nausea. The last thing you want to happen to your daughter is for a teacher to faint or vomit at the mere sight of her.”
According to the Stranger Slog, the parents only got involved after the school had done nothing to address their concerns for 3 days. The district says:
“What I understand is that the principal wasn’t aware the student was sent into another classroom,” says Faye Chess-Prentice, a school district attorney who handles personnel issues and was interviewed separately. “She said she was unaware of it. That might be why there is a delay, but that is just an assumption on my part.”Until we know when the principal was made aware of the incident, it is hard to know if the inaction was just on the part of the teacher. Did Mr. Mudede let the teacher know of their acute discomfort over her actions? Did the teacher think she had addressed the issue already and didn't tell her principal? Does a teacher have to report every unhappy parent's concern to her principal?
I think that Mr. Mudede's comment about not wanting his child to cause the teacher to faint or vomit at the sight of her was coy and uncalled for. Why he would want to make a bad situation worse is unclear (and this is a guy who deals in words).
In the end, though, the lesson needs to be for those in charge to get out in front of issues like this. Not let them go or fester or hope they blow over.