LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Louisville Male High School teacher who was pulled from the classroom amid an investigation last week has previously been suspended by Jefferson County Public Schools, in part because he admitted to unzipping his pants in front of a class and pulling his shirt through the opening to make a point about the school’s dress code.
JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio suspended Jeffrey Wright, a physics teacher at Male, for five days without pay effective Sept. 3, according to personnel records obtained Wednesday by WDRB News.
Pollio also referred Wright to the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board, which can investigate and discipline public school teachers for misconduct, according an Oct. 9 letter from former Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis.
Wright's teaching credentials are still active, but the Kentucky Department of Education says there is a "pending matter" regarding him before the EPSB. The agency cannot comment or release records into cases until final action is taken by the EPSB.
Wright, who was previously profiled in the New York Times and has taught at JCPS since 1999, did not immediately return a message seeking comment Wednesday.
“A school-level investigation substantiated allegations that you made inappropriate, harassing and bullying comments towards and about students,” Pollio said in an Aug. 26 letter explaining his decision to suspend Wright.
“You mocked and disparaged students to their peers and made inappropriate comments regarding LGBTQ students. You made sexual comments, used sexual innuendo and acted in an unprofessional manner in your classroom.”
Personnel records show Wright worked unpaid in the district’s culture and climate office starting Sept. 3 and returned to the classroom Sept. 10.
Wright’s suspension earlier this school year was the first time he had been disciplined for misconduct at JCPS, records in his personnel file show. He was reassigned from his classroom Friday “pending further review and investigation” into an undisclosed matter, JCPS Communications Director Renee Murphy told WDRB News on Monday.
“Since this is still an ongoing review, we are not at liberty to discuss any further details,” Murphy said.
He's been reassigned to Materials Production, and the investigation is still underway as of Wednesday, according to district spokeswoman Jennifer Brislin.
Prior to his unpaid suspension near the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, Wright met with former Male Principal Jim Jury, Assistant Principal Jenny Edelen and his Jefferson County Teachers Association representative in a due process meeting June 11, personnel records show.
The school got involved after a parent accused Wright of “slandering her son.” Male officials obtained statements from that student and others, which brought to light various allegations against Wright.
Other students confirmed that Wright had “continually singled out that particular student by making negative comments about him, both while the student was in class and out of class.”
“The student shared that he did not go to that class because he did not want to be put in a toxic environment because he felt slandered and insulted by Mr. Wright,” according to a report of the due process meeting signed by Jury and Wright. “Mr. Wright only shared that he questioned the student for being out of the room for a long length of time.”
At that meeting, Wright admitted to unzipping his pants and pulling his shirt through the zipper before walking around the room “to illustrate that students could dress any way they wanted due to changes in the dress code.”
Wright also told girls in class to, “Keep telling them no,” and boys to “think with their heads up there (referencing shoulder areas) and not down there (referencing groin area),” according to the meeting report. He said he did that every year before spring break “because they have not been told when they can get pregnant.”
Wright was also asked about whether he used sexual references to help his students remember physics content. He said he often gave classes “creative ways” for students to remember material, which the students interpreted as sexual innuendos.
He was also confused about the allegation regarding inappropriate comments toward an LGBTQ student “because the student invited him to his graduation party,” the meeting report says.
Based on the meeting, Jury recommended a five-day suspension for Wright.
A Change.org petition seeking Wright’s return to the classroom has received more than 3,800 signatures.
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