AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – A teacher placed on administrative leave is defending himself and fighting to keep his job.
“I would like to be in the classroom where I belong as quickly as possible,” said Overland High School teacher Jay Bennish.
On Aug. 27, Bennish was placed on paid administrative leave while the Cherry Creek School District conducted an investigation into actions they claimed could jeopardize student safety and wellness.
“I know that I have never directed racist language or sexist language towards a student. I would never use that language outside of an instructional working environment and any claims to the contrary are unfounded and untrue,” he told CBS4’s Joel Hillan.
The investigation claims to have found evidence that Bennish should be dismissed based on grounds of neglect of duty, immorality, unsatisfactory performance and insubordination.
The district told CBS4 contents of that investigation report are not allowed to be released to the public without written consent from Bennish.
In an email, Tyrone Glover with Bennish’s legal team said, “…the district’s obligations regarding releasing the report are set forth by a collective bargaining agreement and we expect the district to abide by whatever their contractual agreement is with the union.”
“I apologize to any student that felt harmed by my efforts to think critically and understand the world in which we live,” said Bennish, who has been a teacher at Overland High School for 20 years.
During that time, he taught courses in AP Human Geography and African American Studies and was the club sponsor for the Black Student Alliance.
“For hundreds of years, African Americans have been denied — through a form of cultural genocide — access to their own history and their true past, and it’s important for every person to be able to claim their rightful place in world history so they can empower themselves, believe in themselves and have the self-confidence to succeed in life,” he said.
At Monday night’s Cherry Creek School Board meeting, community members braved the snow and cold and lined up to voice their support of Bennish.
“It was a moment that I will never forget for my entire life, the outpouring of support from students, former, current, from staff members from community members and family was truly remarkable, and I’m so thankful and appreciative,” he said.
Monday night the School Board voted to acknowledge that they received the recommendations for the dismissal of Bennish.
According to Colorado State Law there will now be an independent hearing process, where both sides will be able to submit evidence and have witnesses testify.
Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegfried expressed a desire to move quickly to get to this next step.