Wausau East High School. Photo: Wausau School District

Damakant Jayshi

The Wausau School Board on Monday held a closed session with an outside attorney to discuss the fate of a band director who is under state investigation but did not make any decision on his fate, Board President James Bouche said.

Rob Perkins, band director at Wausau East High School, has been under fire for weeks amid allegations of racist and homophobic comments made in the classroom after a student came forward in March.

“We as a Board take this situation very seriously and are looking into this matter very closely,” Bouche told Wausau Pilot & Review Tuesday by email. “The Board has attained a third party attorney to review the investigation that had been completed and to investigate new allegations identified during Public Comment on May 8th. Last night the Board was given an update by the attorney pertaining to the review and contacts made. This is all I have at this time.”

A student at Wausau East High School and his family have accused Perkins of harassing the Asian American teen with racial and homophobic slurs. He received strong support from some students from the band and others who have refuted the charges against him, saying he is very inclusive, welcomes students from all backgrounds, that he has been misunderstood and unfairly targeted. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction launched its own investigation earlier this month.

On May 8, relatives of the family who filed the complaint against Perkins made new revelations and alleged that the band director used words like “monkey,” “chink,” “faggot,” and “ching chong” directed at the student. They are furious that the district officials allowed the band director to return after investigation. On May 9, the board announced its own third-party investigation.

The May 8 meeting also brought to fore what many students said the Wausau School District has been having for years but kept under wraps: racism against students from minority communities of all kinds: race, color, gender, and sexual orientation. One speaker, who broke down while sharing her experience, said she was asked to “go back to China” and “go back to where you belong.” Others said they had filed complaints against other teachers with the authorities but no action was taken.

Perkins’ actual status is unclear, even though it has been established that he has not been in the classroom in recent days. Rumors of his dismissal in the absence of any official corroboration from the district or board officials have swirled in the community and on social media.

Students, parents and community members on both sides of the issue have been left waiting for answers even as anger on both sides in the community is mounting.