A recent decision by Portland’s school board to retain 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.
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.
He Called in Sick
Keller’s behavior included repeatedly pretending to be sick 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 Judged a Dance Contest
He also called in sick after his request for unpaid leave to judge a dance contest was denied, yet he attended the contest and served as a judge.
The School Had Enough
These actions led to a clash between Keller and school officials, prompting the headteacher and superintendent to move for his termination.
The Black Board Member Called Out for Racism
During the board meeting, member Michelle DePass, who is black, openly admitted that she spared Keller from being fired due to his race.
No White Person Had Faced This Problem
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.
This Could Cause Problems
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.
The Teacher Was Talented
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.
However, the decision to retain Keller provoked mixed reactions among students and parents.
Students Supported the Teacher
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.
A Rare Role Model
They argued that Keller served as a rare African-American male role model in their predominantly white community.
The Impact of a Black Teacher
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.
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.
Maybe They Need a Few Lawsuits
Several social media users shared their thoughts on the incident.
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.”
This Is Insane
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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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / fizkes. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.
This post is based on Daily Mail but the names have been changed.