A recent decision by Portland’s school board to retain a black dance teacher, Damon Keller, who repeatedly called in sick to take private dance lessons, has ignited a heated debate about racism and accountability. Here’s the full story.
He Called in Sick but Judged a Dance Contest
Despite clear evidence of misconduct and a history of disciplinary issues, the board members voted 4-3 in favor of keeping Keller at Ockley Green Middle School, citing concerns of racial bias in his scrutiny and dismissal.
Keller’s behavior included pretending to be sick on multiple occasions to skip work and teach private dance lessons, despite being informed that his contract did not permit him to take time off for this purpose.
He also called in sick after his request for unpaid leave to judge a dance contest was denied, yet attended the contest and served as a judge.
These actions led to a clash between Keller and school officials, prompting the headteacher and superintendent to move for his termination.
His Race Spared Him from Being Fired
During the board meeting, member Michelle DePass, who is black, openly admitted that she spared Keller from being fired due to his race.
DePass argued that Keller had been excessively scrutinized for eight years and claimed that she had never witnessed a white person facing similar scrutiny and subsequent dismissal.
However, this justification drew criticism from fellow board member Andrew Scott, who called the comments “extraordinarily troubling” and suggested that they could lead to a future lawsuit.
Keller is regarded as a talented dance teacher, and some of his former students have gone on to work with prominent artists such as Justin Bieber and Rihanna.
Provoking Mixed Reactions
However, the decision to retain Keller provoked mixed reactions among students and parents.
Some students organized a walkout to protest the potential dismissal of one of the few black educators at the school and accused the plans to fire him of being racially motivated.
They argued that Keller served as a rare African-American male role model in their predominantly white community.
These sentiments were echoed by some parents during the public hearing, who expressed concerns about the impact on black students despite the teacher’s disciplinary record.
Highlighted the Racial Tensions
The controversy surrounding the decision highlighted the racial tensions and ideological climate in Portland, known for its progressive stance on issues such as race and gender identity.
While the intentions of the school board members who voted to retain Keller might have been rooted in addressing historical racial discrimination, critics argue that the decision sets a concerning precedent for future cases involving similar misconduct.
Several social media users shared their thoughts on the incident.
Completely Insane That He Still Has His Job
One Twitter user wrote, “Maybe it will take a few lawsuits and a few million $$ in jury verdicts for the victims of this teacher, for the school board to fire him.”
Another user added, “It is completely insane that this teacher still has his job. You can’t just lie about working a second job when you work in public service! That’s not even vaguely acceptable!”
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Source: Daily Mail