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Wausau investigation thrown out: conclusion that racist, homophobic remarks weren’t discrimination is invalid, new investigation underway


An attorney hired by the Wausau school board has declared the results of its investigation into a teacher’s racist and homophobic remarks invalid, prompting a new investigation.

As we reported last month, the Asian-American community rallied in support of a student who says he was subject to racial slurs as well as homophobic comments from Wausau East band director Rob Perkins. A school district investigation, led by human resources head Tara Gundrum, found that Perkins used “insensitive” language in an effort to create a “fun” environment, but that the comments did not rise to the level of discrimination or harrassment.

The Wausau Daily Herald reports that the investigation fell under the auspices of Title IX, the civil rights law that bars discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity. Investigations of Title IX violations must be conducted in accordance with several rules, which the Wausau school district broke.

Among the violations, according to the Daily Herald, are that Gundrum is not a certified Title IX coodinator; the decision did not explain why Perkins’ conduct did not meet the definition of harrassment; and the student’s parents did not have a chance to review evidence or respond to the findings.

The school district hired attorney Alana Leffler to conduct an independent investigation after the initial internal investigation sparked community backlash. It was Leffler to determined the original investigation was invalid.

The state Department of Public Instruction is also investigating at the request of the student’s family, and intiated its own independent investigation as to whether Perkins should keep his teaching license.

After the student’s family filed its complaint in early April, several former students came forward with their own allegations of racist and sexist treatment by Perkins.

One former student, a Latina named Olivia who graduated in 2019, said it started in her very first encounter with Perkins. She told Madison365 in an interview that she came to summer band camp with her older brother, and upon opening the band room door, Perkins said, “Oh, it’s Mexican One and Mexican Two.” Olivia said he repeatedly referred to her brother as “Pedro” or “Cheech.” On another occasion, she remembered Perkins offering a replacement mouthpiece to her — she played tuba and euphonium – saying, “try not to get salsa on it.”

Another former student, Katherine Plier, who graduated in 2016, told the school board at its May 8 meeting that Perkins employed a slapstick – a percussion instrument that replicates the sound of a whip – near a Black student and said, “Does that remind you of anything from your past?”

Perkins was placed on leave April 5 but reinstated April 26. School district officials have not responded to requests for comment.