Following the reinstatement of a Wausau East High School teacher who has been accused of multiple accounts of racist and homophobic language against a gay Hmong-Laotian student, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (WDPI) has opened “an educator misconduct investigation,” the Wausau Daily Herald reports. The investigation comes as the Asian community in Wausau, a city in Wisconsin in which 12 percent of the population is of Hmong descent, demands action.
“We denounce the harmful speech, and demand accountability, justice, and reparation,” a Change.org petition calling for the school district and the teacher, Robert Perkins, to take accountability says. “The destructive and hostile environment that was created as a result of the choices that Robert Perkins made, not only caused “unease” within students, but has caused outrage on a local and national level.”
Within the first day of its release, the petition has already garnered over 1,300 signatures towards its goal of 1,500. It details a series of demands in response to Superintendent Keith Hilts’ statement that Perkins’s language “does not rise to a level of discrimination or harassment” in his dismissal of the student and his family’s complaint.
In a Facebook post outlining a timeline of the incidents in question, Jennifer Yang, community leader and sister to Manee Vongphakdy, the students’ mother, writes, “I disagree with WSD [Wausau School District]; Rob Perkin’s behaviors are illegal and severe, gross misconduct – a terminal offense.”
Incidents include Perkins shouting “ch*nk” during class, Perkins singling out the student for his sexuality by “joking” about him wearing a dress instead of a tuxedo, and Perkins chanting “ching-chong” to the rhythm of students playing the cymbals.
Among the demands outlined in the petition are the termination of Perkins’s employment in the WSD; a public apology for the student, his family, and the community as a whole; cultural sensitivity training for all staff; the establishment of an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion district administration leadership position; and the district’s endorsement of Wisconsin Legislature Senate Bill 240, which directs school boards to “provide instruction on Hmong Americans and Asian Americans.”
“Until these demands are agreed and enacted, we will not stop pursuing justice and will not stop growing in our organized unity,” the petition concludes.
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