More questions than answers on the Rob Perkins Wausau East Band situation
District leaders won't say whether the band teacher has been suspended again; but meanwhile the situation has grown more complicated
Rumors swirled that Rob Perkins, the Wausau East band teacher who a Hmong student accused of racism earlier this year, had once again been suspended or placed on leave.
When I reached out the school district’s PR person, Diana White, to confirm or deny this and provide context, my initial email was met with silence. Only after resending it with a note saying I expected to get an answer, did White essentially give me a non-answer answer.
I can confirm Rob Perkins is still employed with the Wausau School District, but we will not be commenting further on such personnel matters.
But now a family member of the child who made the complaint, Jennifer Yang, is saying the school board’s attorney had reversed the dismissal of a Title IX complaint against Perkins. And Perkins daughter told another outlet that Perkins has once again been removed from the classroom.
As a recap, the Wausau School District sent out a vague press release in April that Wausau East Band Teacher Rob Perkins would be returning to the classroom following an investigation. Little was said about that investigation, what it found or what had prompted it in the first place.
Then a group of Hmong leaders wrote a letter to the district, forwarded to members of the media, decrying the decision and spelling out in more detail what happened. Several meetings featured numerous speakers, many detailing their own harassment or racial insults while others defended Perkins.
Madison365 in a story on the case cited other incidents with students. In one case, he allegedly told a Latina student not to get salsa on a replacement mouthpiece and at band camp would call her and her brother “Mexican One and Mexican Two.” Another student said they heard Perkins play a sound effect that sounded like a whip cracking and asking if it reminded that student (who was black) if it sounded like anything from that students’ past.
As The Wausonian reported earlier, the Department of Public Instruction is now reviewing the school district’s decision, and school board officials are investigating the incident themselves.
That appeal was filed by the family through the Wisconsin Education Law and Policy Hub, which is representing the family in the case. WELPH attorney and founder Elisabeth Lambert put out a press release:
“So-called ‘fun’ based on offensive stereotypes and slurs is fun that marginalizes and excludes,” said Attorney Elisabeth Lambert of the Wisconsin Education Law and Policy Hub, who is representing the family on the appeal. “Behavior that creates an offensive school environment based on race and sex is plainly discriminatory under state law. The District can’t be allowed to rewrite the law in order to let itself and its employee off the hook.”
Lambert says the district’s initial determination that no action be taken because the comments were made in “fun” was not a defense recognized by state law or the district’s own policy.
Some students have defended Perkins. An account eastbandstudents 1 posted an alternative accounting of what happened, some of which directly contradicts the student’s account. Sources familiar with the band students have verified that it’s actually run by at least some students in the band program. Now the account has posted more.
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