Carlos Mendez addresses a District 65 school board committee on March 20.

Students and staff were back from spring break today (April 10) in District 65 school buiildings, but Carlos Mendez, assistant principal at Washington Elementary, was not.

Mendez, who took the unusual step of publicly defending himself against a parental allegation of wrongdoing last month, remains on what a district spokesperson calls “temporary reassignment,” working from home while the Department of Child and Family Services continues to review the case.

However, using a Freedom of Information Act request, Evanston Now has obtained internal documents from District 65, which back Mendez’s assertion that he did nothing improper.

While the exact nature of the parental complaint were not spelled out (or may have been in parts of the documents which were redacted), one email from Chief of Schools Lydia Turner says she reviewed security footage from the alleged incident and “the video footage confirms that this allegation is false.”

In addition, a partially redacted document from Washington’s administrative assistant, Maribel Colon, describes a phone call from an individual whose name was blacked out, who asked to speak to the principal.

The call was then transferred to the principal and Mendez in the principal’s office.

The document continues, saying “voices were elevated and there was no foul language used from either party [the prinicipal and Mendez]. They both conducted themselves like the true professionals that they are.”

In addition, a letter from the Washington Elementary PTA was included in the documents.

That letter states that PTA leadership “stand[s] in unconditional support of Carlos Mendez.”

It says that the allegations of “inappropriate action against a student” are “unfounded” based on the evidence.

“We are appalled and heartbroken,” the letter goes on to say, “by the unust and wrongful accusations Mr. Mendez has endured.”

The letter follows similar comments at the March 20 school board committee meeting by a Washington PTA official.

During that meeting, Mendez told the board that “unfortunately, based on false information,” an email was sent to the district by a parent who “decided to attack me and accuse me of something that is not true.”

At that time, Mendez said he had asked for the investigation himself, adding that “I will always stand up for my teachers who are being cursed by a parent. I will always stand up for a child in need.”

It is unlikely that Mendez will be making any other public comments until after the outside investigation by DCFS has concluded.

A March 29 message to Mendez from Assistant Superintendent Andalib Khelgati reminded Mendez that he has been “assigned to work from home during the duration of the DCFS investigation,” although he is allowed to take part in District leadership training and use district offices for that work, as long as permission is granted.

Khelgati also says “I would like to stress that you should refrain from either engaging in disussions or responding to inquiries regarding the investigation.”

“This arrangement,” Khelgati continues, “shall remain in effect until we receive clearance from DCFS for your return to school.”

District spokesperson Melissa Messinger tells Evanston Now that there is no known timeline for the investigation to wrap up, as another agency is involved.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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1 Comment

  1. This whole situation is weird.

    My kids are at Washington and I have always held Mr. Mendez in high regard.

    However, why would he go public with the fact that he is being investigated? It makes no sense.

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