LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Former Male High School physics teacher Jeffrey Wright was terminated after a pattern of inappropriate remarks to students, which he denied Wednesday, emerged during a Jefferson County Public Schools investigation, according to records obtained by WDRB News.
Wright was fired July 29 and had previously served a five-day, unpaid suspension for unzipping his pants during class and pulling his shirt through the opening to illustrate the school’s lax dress code and making inappropriate comments to students.
Wright, who now works for Martha Layne Collins High School in Shelbyville, denied making any inappropriate comments toward students when reached by WDRB News on Wednesday.
He has filed a grievance challenging his termination, which was recommended by Male Principal Willie Foster, according to JCPS spokesman Mark Hebert.
“Unfortunately, arbitration hearings regarding this have not been held yet to confirm this, therefore I do not want to share any other information at this time,” he said in an email. “This will give everyone the respect deserved until due process is given.”
A district investigation substantiated numerous complaints against Wright after someone raised concerns about inappropriate comments he allegedly made toward students. He was also accused of projecting a roster during class and asking students whether they received special accommodations for disabilities, a charge that was not substantiated after the investigation.
Among the accusations against Wright that were deemed credible by the JCPS investigator are:
- Wright used a student, her boyfriend and himself as an example during a lesson and referred to himself as the student’s boyfriend.
- Wright offered his phone number to a class and said, “The ladies can hit me up.” He denied making such a comment but said he share his phone number with Male’s quick recall team during a July 14 due process meeting. All parents had his phone number, and study groups were able to contact him through FaceTime or Google Meet if necessary, he said. “I plead guilty – I have given my number,” Wright said, according to a report of the due process meeting.
- Wright asked students whether they have 504 plans, which detail special accommodations for students with disabilities, in front of other students in class. An allegation that he projected his student roster during class and asked who had 504 plans in that manner was unsubstantiated.
- Wright said students could come to his red van during football games so he could teach them how to weigh things, which some students took as an allusion to illegal substances. He said during a due process meeting that he often gets candy for his son from the van during football games.
- Wright said during a class discussion that while training with NASA he had to urinate through a tube. “It must be noted that all stated Mr. Wright never came out and identified his genitals, but referred to them when he was explaining his story,” the investigation report says. “Those interviewed states the context of the discussion made them feel uncomfortable.”
- Wright discussed having a blood clot near his groin during class, which students said he referred to as “being in the area boys know about,” according to the report.
- Wright directed students to “aim at the nuts” of a toy monkey during a class activity in which they tried to hit the monkey, which was suspended from the classroom ceiling, with a marble. Students told the investigator that the monkey was replaced with a can the following day. Wright denied hanging a monkey in his classroom for that lesson, which involved a demonstration called "shoot the monkey."
- Wright did not allow students to use formula sheets during makeup tests regardless of whether their absences were excused. The investigator noted that no one had their 504 plans violated because of this.
- Wright commented about an ongoing investigation during a class, which some students interpreted as an attempt at intimidation “given his role as a teacher,” according to the report.
An allegation that he stood too close to female students was unsubstantiated.
Students also indicated during the investigation that Wright would sometimes say things during class and immediately apologize for the remarks.
“Students did not provide specific comments that Mr. Wright made prior to admitting that he should not have said the comments,” the report says.
During his due process meeting, Wright said the only instance he could recall of reconsidering something he had said or done was when a journalism student interrupted a class and asked him to dance in front of students, which he did and later regretted.
“That’s the only thing I can think of,” Wright said, according to the report of his due process meeting.
JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio agreed with the recommendation to fire Wright.
"All teachers have the responsibility to show respect and courtest to all students, staff, families, and school visitors, including respecting individual differences, cultural diversity, and the property of others and to foster ongoing positive relationships with all students and families," Pollio wrote in Wright's July 29 termination letter.
"You failed to meet these obligations."
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