An Open Letter to Superintendent Pollio

As alumni of duPont Manual High School and the founders of Manual’s Black Student Union (BSU), we remember reciting the words to Manual’s creed almost every morning:

I believe that duPont Manual is a school of scholarship, sportsmanship, and service where all work for the common good. I, therefore, pledge myself to obey established authority, accept responsibility for my own conduct, and so honor our colors that the Crimson and White will always be a symbol of a school with lofty purpose and democratic ideals

In the spirit of scholarship, sportsmanship, service, and working towards the common good — we are proud to be a part of the rich tradition of black activism on campuses worldwide. As founding members of duPont Manual’s BSU we stand with the current students who have taken up the mantle of organizing for positive radical change.

Further, we emphatically and unwaveringly support the right of all students to protest JCPS’s handling of Gerald Mayes. We want student activists to know that there will always be people who don’t support your right to fight back. There will always be people who don’t believe that this is the right time for protest. There will always be people who don’t think that protest is the right way to demand what you deserve. All of this could not be further from the truth. You are doing the right thing and we are all so proud you.

Although Manual may be diverse, it does not have a legacy of being inclusive. It is no secret that institutions like Manual were not originally made for us (people of marginalized identities), and it is also fair to say that the myth of a post-racial America is effectively dead in today’s political climate. It is clear that the removal of Gerald Mayes will only be the beginning of a long line of changes needed to make Manual a school we can all be proud of.

To start this process, it is imperative that we interrogate what is meant when students call for “restorative justice.” Restorative justice is an approach meant to return agency to victims and create a mutual understanding between a common community. Restorative justice is something that JCPS needs to start taking more seriously.

Restorative justice is what the victims of Gerald Mayes’ conduct deserve. More importantly, the burden for ensuring restorative justice is in the hands of JCPS. High School students shouldn’t have to bear the burden of teaching administrators how to behave. In fact, we believe that this expectation is completely opposite of the lofty purpose duPont Manual serves.

duPont Manual serves democratic ideals and is a place where ALL people should work for the common good. This common good is not determined by Principals and Superintendents, but by those who walk the hallways, go to classes, compete in the events, and make Manual the amazing school this nation has recognized it to be. The common good is what students demanded when they held a sit in on November 14th calling for Gerald Mayes’ resignation. Their protest was wholly in line with Manual’s values and creed.

In fact, this creed applies even to Gerald Mayes. It is time for him to accept responsibility for his own conduct and step down from his position.

The exclusive and racist history of duPont Manual is something that we can not help, but the future of this great institution is something we do have control over. To ensure a better future we need to seat principals of duPont Manual that create a safe, positive, and welcoming environment for students. Under Gerald Mayes, this is not the reality for marginalized students. As long as Gerald Mayes is principal, JCPS and Manual administration are failing students.

Righting this wrong will require a lot of time and a keen focus on restorative justice. Values like safety, trust, and respect are not given, but earned. It’s time for JCPS to choose an established authority who is worth obeying.

The founding of Manual’s Black Student Union represents everything our creed stands for. Manual is great not because it has the best teachers or administrators, but because every day students work to raise the standard. Simply put, Gerald Mayes’ racism, transphobia, ableism, homophobia, sexism, and unprofessionalism, do not meet this standard.

We stand with Manual’s Black Student Union and demand that Gerald Mayes, Manual administration, and Jefferson County Public Schools, do what is right. Gerald Mayes needs to be removed from his position as principal of Manual immediately.

Superintendent Pollio, the Crimsons of old and new are watching you. This decision is one that will go down in history. Let’s make sure the story that is told fifty years from now is one we can all be proud of. Do the right thing and remove Gerald Mayes.

Signed,

Jahne Brown (duPont Manual ’16, UChicago ‘20)

Breya Jones (duPont Manual ’16, DePaul‘20)

Coleman Powell (duPont Manual ’16, Swarthmore College ‘20)

Mia Thompson (duPont Manual ‘16,University of Kentucky ‘20)

Royal Todd (duPont Manual ’16, University of Kentucky ‘20)

Taylor Little (duPont Manual ’16, University of Louisville ‘20)

Brandon J. Colbert (duPont Manual ’15, University of Kentucky ‘19)

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