Ballard High School Principal Keven Wynkoop has been placed on leave after an investigation found he violated school board policies.
The decision comes after Wynkoop was found to have retaliated against a student,Eric Anthony Souza-Ponce, who had raised concerns over English class discussions and a class assignment that he said was inherently racist.
The assignment, given by English teacher Wendy Olsen, was to answer the essay question: “How does oppression, neglected potential, and trauma affect a person’s identity?” In the class discussion that followed, Souza-Ponce told the Seattle Times that Olsen asked them to write about how Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein monster represented oppressed people. Souza-Ponce said she also compared Black and brown communities to Frankenstein’s monster.
Rather than directly address the concerns with the class as Souza-Ponce and his parents Dr. Emi Ponce de Souza and Eric Souza requested, Wynkoop chose to transfer Souza-Ponce to another English class.
The incident happened in Nov. 2020, while classes were being taught remotely. Souza-Ponce and his parents filed a complaint against Wynkoop and the English teacher, Wendy Olsen, citing harassment, bullying, retaliation, intimidation, and discrimination in January 2021, which launched a Seattle Public Schools investigation.
The investigators found that both Wynkoop and Olsen had fostered a hostile school environment and had violated the school district’s policies. Olsen took a two-month break from teaching after the incident; she’s now teaching again this year.
The investigation concluded two months ago, and now it’s unclear whether Wynkoop’s non-disciplinary paid administrative leave is directly related to the investigation findings. Assistant Principal Joseph Williams will be acting as principal during Wynkoop’s absence.
Officials from Seattle Public Schools notified parents about Wynkoop’s leave on Wednesday afternoon. SPS told the Times that the district wanted “to acknowledge the difficulty of making a change in school leadership, honor the work of our staff and reinforce our commitment to our student and family community,” and that they “will move through this challenging time together with dignity while continuing to provide support to our students, community and staff.”
We’ve emailed SPS officials for more information regarding Wynkoop’s leave, and will update with any new information.