There have been a number of lists that demonstrate the new and aggressive cancel culture is being trained at just as many people on the political left as the political right. One of the strangest episodes is a Chicago high school principal who is for now holding her ground.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Joyce Kenner has been the principal of Whitney Young High School for the last five years. In 2020 it was listed number 77 on US News & World Report’s list of the top 100 high schools in the country. According to the ranking:
Young Magnet High School is ranked fourth within Illinois. Students have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement® coursework and exams. The AP® participation rate at Young Magnet High School is 89%. The total minority enrollment is 72%, and 40% of students are economically disadvantaged. Young Magnet High School is 1 of 169 high schools in the Chicago Public Schools.
Kenner has been at the school for 25 years and served as assistant principal prior to taking the helm. Before joining the school, she worked for the education arm of Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition. She is also African American.
According to the Tribune’s report, more than 800 people have signed a petition for Kenner to resign.
Now, after 25 years at the helm of Whitney Young, she finds herself the target of an online petition, posted by unnamed “disappointed alumni,” calling for her to resign, claiming she has “silenced student activists speaking against all forms of injustice. Her silence and her enabling of the systematic oppression that her black and low-income students face should be condemned.” So far it’s gained more than 800 signatures.
Comments cite vague accusations about beliefs, and others claim the principal “worked to sweep the injustices … under the rug” and “consistently puts the perception of the school by the general public over the well-being of her students.”
However, other criticisms revolve around current events. Kenner made a video for the students regarding the George Floyd protests according to the story:
Other critics have focused on more recent events. Several students told the Tribune they were offended by statements Kenner made in a video address about unrest sparked by George Floyd’s killing, in which she asked that if students do protest, they not participate in violence or looting, and said the way to seek change is to get a degree and get a “seat at the table.”
“We can’t have a seat at the table if we’re dead because we were shot by a cop,” one senior said, who added she doesn’t want Kenner to resign but that students deserve a bigger voice.
On their face, Kenner’s comments seem to be good advice. The violence in Chicago was tremendous. Everything from cops being dragged down the street, to looting, and to a record number of shootings in a single weekend. Contrary to the student’s opinion, it was much more likely they would be shot by a fellow citizen, not a cop.
It was so bad in the city, Mayor Lori Lightfoot imposed a curfew and rolled up the drawbridges. Leaked audio of a phone call with Chicago Alderman showed how intense the situation in Chicago actually was.
A Chicago high school principal advising her students not to participate in violence or looting seems pretty benign given the events that occurred in the city. Even good kids do strange things in a mob environment and with such a high performing student population, what responsible administrator would want a student to throw that away on a bad decision?
Kenner’s reported comments could have gone much further. Like observe the city-imposed curfew, it is there for your safety. Or ask parents to accompany their students to a protest for safety’s sake. The video of so many cities, including Chicago, looked dangerous and violent after dark. Certainly, it was no place for a high school student wanting a voice.
Whitney Young is not in session right now due to COVID-19 and summer break. Kenner, who maintains an open-door policy, has time to think about the school’s response. However, she also has a good amount of support among students and parents. For now, she is standing her ground.
She said she received dozens of messages from parents and alumni who support her and want her to stay.
“Nobody is going to push me out. I’m not resigning. I still have a lot of work to do for my African American students,” Kenner said.
And it appears she should. If concern for student safety and outstanding academic performance are a problem for Whitney Young alumni, students and parents, there are other districts that could use a Joyce Kenner.