Seattle Public Schools officials are declining to say why a high school principal was placed on leave this week, the day before school let out for the Thanksgiving holiday. The decision comes two months after an investigation found the principal violated school board policies.
Ballard High School Principal Keven Wynkoop was placed on “non-disciplinary paid administrative leave” effective Wednesday, according to a statement that Wynkoop’s union representative sent on his behalf.
“We are confident that the investigations will find that Principal Wynkoop has been cooperating with Seattle Public Schools to support students, staff and the Ballard community through complex and difficult times,” the statement said.
Seattle Schools officials told parents about Wynkoop’s status via email late Wednesday afternoon and said in an emailed statement to reporters that the district wanted “to acknowledge the difficulty of making a change in school leadership, honor the work of our staff and reinforce our commitment to our student and family community.”
“We recognize the impact of sharing this news during the holidays,” the statement continued. “But collectively, we will move through this challenging time together with dignity while continuing to provide support to our students, community and staff.”
Assistant Principal Joseph Williams will be Ballard’s acting principal.
A Seattle Schools investigation, which was finalized in September, concluded Wynkoop retaliated against a student, Eric Anthony Souza-Ponce, when he transferred him to another class. Souza-Ponce had spoken out about class discussions and curriculum he believed to be racist. The complaint that triggered the investigation was filed in January with Seattle Public Schools against Wynkoop and Ballard High teacher Wendy Olsen, citing harassment, intimidation, bullying, retaliation and discrimination. It’s not clear if the decision to place him on leave and the investigation are related.
Seattle Schools investigators also found that Wynkoop and Olsen created a “hostile school environment” and violated the district’s policy on harassment, intimidation and bullying “by engaging in conduct that substantially interfered” with the student’s education.
Souza-Ponce and his parents emailed Wynkoop and Olsen about the problematic class discussion and responses to assignments about the novel “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley. During class discussion, Olsen likened Black and brown communities to Frankenstein’s monster, who murders people in the novel, including a child.
Souza-Ponce and his parents asked Wynkoop to address the class and explain why the discussions and responses were racist and harmful, but instead, Wynkoop chose to transfer Souza-Ponce to another class.