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Principal Resigns After Black Student Who Received Piece of Copper with N-Word Engraved Sparked Protest That Called Out School for Not Taking Harassment Claims Seriously

The principal of Olathe High School in Kansas resigns after feeling pressure from students and parents over racial incidents that weren’t taken seriously enough throughout the school year.

(Left) Kirubel Solomon in a sit-down interview with KWCH News.; (right) parent holding a protest sign from a May 15 protest in Olathe, Kansas. (Photos: KWCH News/Youtube)

About 50 parents, students, and community leaders held a protest on May 15 at the Olathe school district headquarters to demand a change in leadership and practices according to Kansas City Star. The protest efforts were sparked by Black sophomore student Kirubel Solomon after he received a flat copper piece with the N-word engraved on it from three white students in his metal and jewelry making class on May 4.

Solomon told the Kansas City Star he reported the incident to the Principal Dr. Dale Longenecker and nothing was done until he filled out paperwork with the vice principal. The vice principal suspended all three white students.

Solomon said he felt the suspension was “weak.”

“I feel like it was weak,” Solomon told the Star. “Because the school punishes harder for lesser offenses in my opinion. Like vaping. They take vaping more seriously than racism in my opinion.”

He also stated that he reported other incidents to Longenecker and nothing was done. Solomon’s sophomore classmate Jamya Haynes told the newspaper she also experienced racism and no action was taken. She reportedly was called a racial slur by a white student but her teacher didn’t believe her after she reported the incident.

Olathe Schools Superintendent Brent Yeager informed parents that Longenecker resigned on Monday.

“Olathe South families, I have some important information to share with you regarding a change in administrative staffing at Olathe South. I wanted to make you aware that Dr. Longenecker has resigned and will not be returning to Olathe South. We recognize that this has been an especially challenging end of the school year for Olathe South and want to assure you that your administrative team and district leadership are committed to moving forward in the most productive way possible.”

The statement continued, “District Administration is working hard to ensure a smooth transition in leadership moving forward. We are committed to providing stability for the OS staff, students and community as we close out the school year and head into the summer. Once we have named a new head principal for the 2023-24 school year, we will communicate that information to you. I appreciate your support and understanding as we work through this adjustment at a challenging time of the year. As always, please feel free to reach out to me, Assistant Superintendent of High Schools Mr. Clint Albers or your OS administrative team if you have any questions.”

Longenecker’s resignation was among a list of things the students and activists demanded from the district. They want the district to investigate its own practices for addressing racism, institute new disciplinary measures against racial discrimination and hate speech that have clear consequences, and begin a process of educating people on the impact of their racist behavior.

The Olathe students also wanted to see more diverse hirings, stronger diversity training, and a system that would make students feel more comfortable about reporting racial incidents, the Star reports.

Outside of Longenecker’s resignation, no further steps to address students’ demands have been announced.

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