A Kansas City high school basketball coach has been benched after allegations of racial harassment were waged against him.
Winnetonka High School Social Studies teacher and head boys basketball coach Derek Howard has been put on paid administrative leave in the wake of a North Kansas City Schools investigation. A former basketball player and student at Winnetonka High School claims Howard harassed him for two years.
High school senior Marcus Williams Jr. said he first met Howard a couple years ago when he coached Williams’ sophomore basketball team. Williams chose not to play the following year because of Howard’s coaching style.
Since then, Williams claims Howard targeted him with embarrassing and sometimes racial statements.
The last straw came last Tuesday when Williams was taking a picture with classmates in the gym. Williams claims Howard stopped in mid-jog to tell him to label his picture in the yearbook as “future welfare recipient”.
Williams had been looking for proof of the alleged abuse and this was the perfect opportunity to record one of Howard’s comments. Williams asked Howard to repeat himself and pushed ‘record’ on his cellphone.
The recording starts with Howard slowly saying, “Future welfare recipient.” Then, Williams asks him, “Who?” Howard responds by saying, “Students who don’t get good grades.”
Williams said Howard seems to be joking in the recording; however, the first time he said the words “future welfare recipient”, Williams said Howard looked serious.
Williams NBC affiliate KSHB that comment put him over the edge.
Last week Williams and his father, Marcus Williams Sr., filed a Racial Harassment Complaint with the school district.
“As a teacher, there are just certain levels of language you’re just not supposed to use, period,” said Marcus Williams, Sr. “If you tell a kid ‘You’re going to be a future welfare recipient and when you graduate, in five years you’re not going to be able to make $30,000.’ You’re cursing the kid, you’re not teaching the kid.”
Williams Sr. is disgusted by the way the high school tried to handle the allegations. However, he’s pleased with the response he received from the district level.
On Monday, Williams Jr. transferred out of Winnetonka High School. Since coming forward with the allegations against Howard, Williams Jr. has received several online threats. Despite his own feelings of anger and embarrassment, Williams Jr. is encouraging others who’ve been harassed by peers or teachers to follow in his footsteps, and speak out.
Williams Jr. is convinced there are more students who feel they were harassed by Howard. Because of the nature of the investigation, the school district was unable to tell us who had been interviewed.
North Kansas City Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Dan Clemens wrote:
“The behaviors reported by this student do not reflect our professional conduct standards and will not be tolerated. We expect all students to be treated with respect by all staff at all times…Administrators at the high school and District Office have met with the student and his parents, and we are investigating thoroughly,” he said. “This issue is a personnel matter and will be handled according board policy.”