KANSAS CITY, MO – Weeks after a mass Town Hall to address racism at the Kansas City school, a coalition of major civil rights organizations is issuing demands to University Academy.
The Defender received exclusive access to the letter penned by Civil Rights leaders following the viral racist incident of now-fired University Academy High School teacher, Johnny Wolfe, who repeatedly used the n-word after Black students asked him to stop. In response to complaints against Mr. Wolfe, and what parents describe as a “pattern” and a normalized racially toxic environment, the Kansas City Defender is publishing a first look at a letter to the University Academy Administration & Superintendent, calling on demands to be met from civil rights leaders, students, alumni, and parents. Signees include; The Urban League of Kansas City, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, The National Black United Front, as well as the larger coalition the Urban Summit.
Read the letter in full below:
After meetings with University Academy representatives, parents, and students, on Monday, December 5, and Wednesday, December 7, it is apparent that students have experienced trauma in a racially toxic learning environment at University Academy (UA).
To learn that UA and its donors invested in diversity and inclusion training in 2020 and still handled Johnny Wolfe’s racist behavior so poorly is unacceptable. Further, for the Superintendent to suggest that the diversity and inclusion team “didn’t know what work to embark upon next” is highly problematic.
The numerous stories we heard from children, alumni, and families, on Wednesday, December 7, 2022, confirm that University Academy has a culture of oppression that is detrimental to our children’s self-esteem, self-worth, and personhood.
Parents and students spoke about a culture that supports gifted and talented students and weeds out those who struggle to excel. Parents shared how the principal encouraged them to teach their children to be more submissive.
Students reported that many staff and Administrators shunned Historically Black Colleges and Universities and characterized these Black-led institutions as being inferior to mainstream, ivy-league colleges and universities.
The Alumni shared that the principal evacuated them from UA premises after they peacefully wanted to share their concern for the students who experienced racial trauma at the hands of Johnny Wolfe.
It is appalling and deeply troubling to know that students were subjected to Johnny Wolfe’s abuse for more than a week before the administration placed him on paid leave. Furthermore, it is unconscionable that parents were not immediately made aware of the incident, which impeded their ability to protect and properly care for their children at this critical time.
Parents who learned about the incident from their children shared that they begrudgingly encouraged their student(s) to move past this racial violence in order to perform for their mastery exams.
The students shared how emotionally and mentally hurt they were due to the administration’s inadequate response to their trauma. In their opinion, referring them to a counselor intern who is both culturally incompetent and overloaded served only as a “check-the-box” gesture. Additionally, students believed their racial trauma was minimized by the many teachers who opted out of attending the “voluntary” meetings regarding this incident. Consequently, they wonder if those teachers support Johnny Wolfe’s actions.
Overall, University Academy administrators, including Superintendent Gudde and Upper School Principal Ukaoma, handled Mr. Wolfe’s racially aggressive behavior poorly. In short, the University Academy leadership is inept at protecting African American children from racial harm and racial abuse. As a result, immediate corrective action must be taken to ensure the egregious racial assault that occurred on November 10, 2022, will not be repeated. Following is a list of demands from University Academy Alumni, parents, students, and Civil Rights organizations.
Call For Action and Expectations:
University Academy Alumni
- Johnny Wolfe is removed from his teaching position at University Academy, effective immediately and permanently.
- During the investigation, Johnny Wolfe should be on leave without pay.
- Establish a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion task force that includes current students, staff, parents, and alums. The UA administration cannot select this task force, and it should be established through volunteers or voting only.
- University Academy must increase the diversity of its staff, and an African American teacher should teach all future African American History courses.
- Mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion training should be held for all staff and administrators, at minimum, twice yearly. A People-Of-Color-owned provider should facilitate this training.
- Provide space for twice-yearly Town Hall meetings to allow current students and Alumni issues to be heard and addressed.
Civil Rights Leaders
- We call for the immediate termination of Principal Ukaoma, Johnny Wolfe, and solid disciplinary action, including long-term, unpaid suspension for Superintendent Gudde.
- The UA Board shall pursue the revocation of Johnny Wolfe’s teaching certificate.
- Mandate anti-racism training for all staff, administrators, and board members on an ongoing basis.
- Adopt a zero-tolerance policy that explicitly prohibits using the “N” word and delineates that using the “N” word by staff, faculty, and administrators will result in immediate removal/termination.
University Academy Students
- Provide mental health resources, more counseling, and time to process the situation.
- Make a public apology from the teacher and administrators.
University Academy Parents
- Allow parents more access to their students within the school.
- Establish a Parent Advisory Board.
- Hold Board meetings at 6 pm when parents and the public can attend.
- Hold an open session to hear parents’ and public concerns about the incident before the closed meeting to address the racial slur investigation.
- Issue a public statement denouncing racism and a plan to build an anti-racist learning environment.