AURORA (CBS4) – Several people spoke in support of an Overland High School teacher accused of racism at the Cherry Creek School Board meeting Monday night. Jay Bennish, a social studies teacher, is on administrative leave following multiple allegations he used racist and offensive language.
The school board meeting lasted more than four hours on Monday night. Every person who spoke during the meeting’s public comment period defended Bennish against the claims.
The district made a recommendation for Bennish to be dismissed over allegations that he used the n word in class and acted inappropriately as the adult sponsor of the Black Student Alliance. School officials are investigating whether his actions are in violation of board policies, including anti-discrimination policies.
The district says Bennish handed out T-shirts with “derogatory, racist images and language” on them, according to a letter sent by the district to the Overland High School community.
“All students deserve to feel safe, respected and valued at school. When actions occur that jeopardize student safety and wellness, we have to take action,” said Jennifer Perry Carla Stearns, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Operations.
The superintendent is in the process of identifying an independent third party to oversee hearings to determine if Bennish will be dismissed. A final decision will not be made until the board goes through a formal hearing process.
A. Tyrone Glover, the attorney representing Bennish, issued the following statement to CBS4:
“The District is trampling on the First Amendment rights of not only Mr. Bennish, but the First Amendment rights of the students who deserve to learn about their history and culture from such an accomplished teacher. These allegations are false and defamatory. Last night, the standing room only school board meeting was filled with Mr. Bennish’s supporters. Dozens of students, parents, and colleagues, spoke of a compassionate and caring teacher who challenged them to be the best version of themselves. And, it now appears the District is going back on its promise to reopen a fact investigation and speak with eyewitnesses. The suggestion that Jay Bennish is a racist is ridiculous.”
Bennish made national headlines in 2006 over his alleged remarks about then-President George W. Bush after his State of the Union address. He was a teacher at Overland High School at the time.