In a highly unusual move, a school official who has been “removed from work” following a parental complaint went public Monday afternoon, saying “the evidence overwhelmingly shows the truth” that he has not done anything wrong.
Carlos Mendez, assistant principal at Washington Elementary School, told a District 65 Board of Education committee that board members recently received an email from a parent who “unfortunately, based on false information, decided to attack me and accuse me of something that is not true.”
Exactly what happened, or what is perceived to have happened, was not specifically outlined.
It is not normal school board policy to release complaints in public session, and the individual who allegedly made the allegation was apparently not at the meeting. No one spoke in support of the complaint.
However, statements from the half-a-dozen individuals who spoke or sent letters backing Mendez did shed some light on the situation.
Kelliann McArthur, union representative for the paraprofessionals at Washington, said that Mendez “has been accused of inappropriate action reported to DCFS (Children’s Services) and removed from work.”
McArthur, who read from a letter to the board, did not reveal details. But she said the allegations are “difficult to believe,” and the paraprofessionals are calling for Mendez’s “immediate reinstatement.”
It’s unclear exactly what type of “removal from work” has taken place. There was no mention of whether it is paid administrative leave, unpaid leave, or some other sort of disciplinary exclusion from the job.
Mendez himself said he asked the district to investigate once the allegations were made, and that investigation appears to still be under way.
Mendez said “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.”
Mendez also read a letter from Washington principal Elizabeth Cardenas Lopez, who blasted the “unjust and sickening investigation prompted by a parent who is on a quest to have a black student having some social-emotional needs expelled from District 65.”
The principal’s letter said “we want Mr. Mendez back in school immediately.”
Ruth Young, a Washington teacher, told the board that “a small group” has been working against Mendez, and even launched a petition to get a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or people of color) child removed from school. Young said the effort was racially motivated.
Sharon Fujimora, co-PTA leader at Washington, called the situation “heartbreaking,” and said the school has “amazing leaders.”
She said there are “a lot of critical cases at Washington, we do need help” for those students.
However, she added that “right now we have a parent who is lying because that help is not being supported,” and called for more assistance from the district.
Following the committee meeting, Evanston Now filed a request with District 65 for documents connected to the situation.
While the case plays out, Mendez told the board “now I have no choice but to be patient and let the process finish, and soon I hope to be back at Washington.”
After that, people in the audience applauded.
I completely feel for Mr. Mendez, and if he stood up to a parent who was cursing out staff, he is a hero for doing so. On the other hand, I can’t blame the District for taking action where there is an open DCFS investigation. Obviously, the facts aren’t all in the open but whatever issue was going on called for more effective resolution before things got to this point. That didn’t happen and this man ended up taking it on the chin.
Mr. Mendez is a kind, compassionate, creative and wise leader at Washington School. I count him among the teachers and administrators who have truly made a positive difference in the lives of my children and the many students he guides at Washington.
I am grateful he addressed the board in public regarding these outlandish falsehoods being leveled against him. He is a man of integrity. He will not be bullied.
Mr. Mendez, you have the full support of my family. Thank you for your strong leadership throughout the years.
Mr Mendez is the greatest! Can’t imagine a more beloved AP.
In a just society, the person making a false accusation against another, should receive the legal penalty that goes with the allegation that they made.
Can someone explain the logic of Mendez going public with the situation and then having his boss issue a public statement as well?
Why would Mendez want to bring attention to it?
It seems to compromise the investigation especially to have the principal issue a statement revealing details about the case.
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