After a high school teacher refused to allow black students to use the “N-word,” the principal sent a letter home to parents accusing the man of using racist language and making students feel unsafe. After the truth came out, the teacher got the last laugh.
For more than 20 years, Jay Bennish has been an esteemed educator of Advanced Placement and Black Studies classes at Overland High School in Aurora, Colorado. The veteran teacher has remained a staple of the campus until his position became an issue for the current administration.
According to KDVR, the trouble began when Bennish was approached by two black female students with a bizarre request. The girls wanted permission to use the “N-word” and the “B-word” at club events. Of course, Bennish refused, telling the students it would “violate district policy.” He had no idea the dismissal would lay the grounds for his suspension.
The district suspended Bennish for a year over alleged racism, prompting the teacher to pursue legal action. Civil rights attorney David Lane says that the allegation was merely an excuse for principal Aleshia Armour to force out Bennish, who is white, in order for a black person to teach Black Studies.
Lane told FOX31, “The principal had a game plan to get Jay out of Black Studies and replace him with an African-American teacher.”
Only after the district discovered that the Problem Solvers were about to release a story on Bennish’s suspension did administrators send a letter to parents concerning accusations of racism. The letter stated that the accusations under investigation “include whether Mr. Bennish used the ‘N-word’ in his classroom and acted appropriately as the adult sponsor of the Black Student Alliance.”
“I can’t imagine that the principal and the district would take the position that I should’ve said yes to these students and encouraged that type of language to be used at a school setting,” said Bennish in an interview with FOX31. “It was pretty clear that they were looking and searching for something to try and remove me as a teacher,” said Bennish.
In an effort to bolster their accusations, the district claimed that Bennish distributed a T-shirt design with the phrase “Who You Calling N—–?!” and racist imagery. However, former students of Bennish set the record straight, confirming that it was the students in the club who created and distributed the shirts and that their teacher had nothing to do with it. They added that the district twisted the message’s positive intent in order to use it as a weapon against Bennish.
“I’m honestly just disappointed and shocked that anything like this is happening around our community,” said Jade Jones, who graduated as the high school’s vice president of the Black Student Alliance in 2017. “It’s supposed to be that – we want to be called as an actual human being and not as this term (the N-word).”
“There was a lot of blowback from administration all the time,” said Precious Jarrett, who was the president of the Black Student Alliance in 2018. “The club was student-ran, like everything we did was our ideas. Our thoughts. (Bennish) was just there as a supporter because we needed a supporter for the group to stay open. I think they’ve been out to get him for a while.”
Of course, when Bennish threatened a lawsuit, the district caved. According to a legal agreement, the district will pay Bennish $75,000 and reinstate him to any high school in the district except for Overland.
Despite the district’s legal agreement, Lane says that they violated the memorandum. According to a statement from Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegfried, the district won’t allow Bennish to teach Black Studies anymore.
“With this draft settlement agreement, the district gets to determine future teaching assignments. As such, Mr. Bennish will not teach Advanced Placement or Black Studies classes and he will not return to Overland High School.”
Lane suggests that the letter denying Bennish his return to teaching Black Studies proves that was the district’s intention all along.
The statement from Siegfried infuriated Lane, who responded, “This is outrageous. The ink on this memo of understanding isn’t even dry and the superintendent is already violating it. If it’s a full-on war they want, it’s a full on war they’ll get. He should be able to teach AP and Black Studies again because that is what the district promised.”
Bennish threatened to go ahead with a lawsuit if the district didn’t allow him to return to teaching Black Studies. Of course, a win in court would almost undoubtedly result in an even bigger payout than the $75,000 for which the district initially agreed.
Disturbingly, it appears as though the principal and district officials conspired together to remove Bennish simply because he’s a white man teaching Black Studies. If this turns out to be the case, the district will be in even more trouble than it’s in already.