Students in Wassau, WI have come forward alleging a pattern of racist and offensive behavior by a band teacher under investigation for his treatment of students.
Both current and former students accuse Robert Perkins of making insensitive remarks against Asians, Latinos. and African Americans.
According to Madison 365, Perkins chanted “ching-chong, ching-chong” to demonstrate the rhythm he wanted, and then opened his mouth wide in mock shock while looking directly at a Hmong American student. Jennifer Yang, the boy’s aunt, also alleges in a Facebook post that Perkins used an anti-Asian slur against her nephew.
The Wassau School District investigated the charges, but determined while Perkins used insensitive language, it did not rise to a level of discrimination or harassment. The district allowed Perkins to return to the classroom, while Madison 365 reports the boy has been out of school fearing for his safety. He could also miss his own graduation.
A Latina named Olivia who graduated in 2019 told Madison 365 she walked into band camp with her brother and that Perkins greeted them by saying “Oh, it’s Mexican One and Mexican Two.” In another incident, she says Perkins warned her not to get salsa on the mouthpiece that he had just given her to play her tuba and euphonium.
She accused Perkins of creating an environment in class in which it was OK for other students to subject her to racist jokes.
Another student, Katherine Plier, who graduated in 2016, said during a school board hearing, that Perkins made the sound of a whip near a Black student and then asked her “Does that remind you of anything from your past?”
The State Department of Public Instruction is currently investigating Perkins and whether the Wassau School District adequately responded to the accusations.
Former school board member Mary Thao expressed disappointment at the board’s response.
“I would have loved to see the Wausau school board be more engaged than they have been,” she said. “I believe that anybody of authority … has the right to take action. I truly believe that they could have stepped in if they wanted to, if they chose to, as a governing board. I understand due process when it comes to employee relations. But when you are the leading body of your school district, you have every right to take charge, and lead.”
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