Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Coach's 'Welfare' Comment Sparks Racial Harassment Claim
Another day, another story of a high school coach setting a bad example. Derek Howard, a teacher and boys' basketball coach at Winnetonka High School in Kansas City, Mo., has been placed on paid leave after allegations that he made racially insensitive remarks to a student. According to local news reports, senior basketball player Marcus Williams Jr. was posing for a photograph in the school's hallway with students from a photography class when Howard happened by and said, "Hey, take a picture and at the bottom, label it 'future welfare recipient.' " |
Williams, who filed a racial harassment complaint with the North Kansas City School District last week, told KCTV in Kansas City that Howard's comment was typical of the ones he has endured for two years. So he grabbed his smartphone and asked the coach to repeat his remarks. The resulting video captures a smug-looking Howard following Williams' request, adding that he was referring to "students that don't get good grades."
"I just felt belittled, crushed and utterly discouraged," Williams told the television station, adding the he did not try out for the school's basketball team this year because Howard has told African-American students they would grow up to be laborers who made less than $30,000 a year. "Countless times, I told him, 'Hey, this is hurting my feelings and you should stop.' I guess he thinks I'm just a kid and he can do whatever he wants."
“The behaviors reported by this student do not reflect our professional conduct standards and will not be tolerated,” North Kansas City assistant superintendent Dan Clemens said in a statement. “We expect all students to be treated with respect by all staff at all times. Administrators at the high school and district office have met with the student and his parents, and we are investigating thoroughly. This issue is a personnel matter and will be handled according to board policy.”
Williams, who played his recording for the school's principal, says Howard has apologized for his remarks, but the student doubts his sincerity. The student's father has demanded a public apology and wants Howard to seek counseling. “Ultimately, we want to shed light on how some teachers are bullying our kids,” Marcus Williams Sr. said. “I don’t care about money right now, man. I’m standing up as a concerned parent.”
The Winnetonka incident follows one in which Buffalo (Wyo.) High School football coach Pat Lynch resigned after distributing a "Hurt Feelings Report" to his players. The sarcastic survey was handed out prior to a playoff game and used lewd homophobic and sexist language to ask individual players if he suffered “permanent feeling damage” and if he needed "a tissue for the tears.” The coach may no longer be on the sidelines, but he remains a guidance counselor at the school, a fact that "makes no sense," according to the editorial writers of the Buffalo Bulletin, who have called for Lynch's dismissal.