Metro Nashville Schools’ director is ducking questions on alleged widespread sexual harassment — and coverups — in his district, news outlets are reporting.
NewsChannel 5 reported last week that school director Dr. Shawn Joseph tried to run from their reporter who wanted an interview on the topic and his role in the investigations. The TV station has tried to interview him since June 5.
He tried to dodge the station’s reporter at a news conference to ask about Dr. Sam Braden, the executive principal of John F. Kennedy Middle School in Antioch.
Among other things, Braden allegedly hired a school employee from an adult bookstore he allegedly frequented, NewsChannel 5 said. He was placed on administrative leave two days after the station aired its story on him.
Spinning the damage
Joseph sent a memo to school board members, saying he was “concerned that the reporter … will report on information that was ‘alleged’” and he wanted to lobby the Tennessee General Assembly to keep human resources files secret, the station said. NewsChannel 5 also reported the school board met in closed executive session to discuss Braden.
Braden’s lawyer, Michie Gibson, released a statement saying, “Dr. Braden denies all allegations made on Channel 5 last night,” the station reported.
This is not the only sexual harassment allegation surrounding Metro Nashville Schools supervisors, media reports show.
Moreno Carrasco, executive officer for Nashville’s lowest-performing schools, received a letter from employee relations last November citing “accusations of harassment committed by you towards female staff members at MNPS,” The Tennessee Star reported at the time. He was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
The investigation against Carrasco “included all sorts of accusations from female colleagues, including allegations of him grabbing a subordinate’s breast,” NewsChannel 5 said.
The station said School Board member Amy Frogge had warned Joseph about the allegation months before an investigation was opened.
The employee who investigated Carrasco, leading to his resignation, was later forced out in a shakeup in human resources, NewsChannel 5 said.
That is ironic, considering Joseph wrote a memo to the district’s employees saying they must follow the sexual harassment policies and suggests victims report instances to their supervisor, human resources or third-party anonymous hotline.
Last December, a spokesperson for Metro Nashville Public Schools said one administrator was retiring after being exonerated of a sexual harassment claim, Fox 17 News said.
Bob Blankenship, director of STEAM for MNPS, was placed on leave last October after a claim made against him by another employee. MNPS said he was told to take sensitivity training. Blankenship chose to retire on Dec. 15 after 32 years with MNPS.
Superintendent faces the music
Joseph also has faced complaints over his conduct.
His love of explicit rap music led to a civil rights complaint being filed, as The Tennessee Star reported in May. An attorney, Jamie Hollin, told NewsChannel 5 he represents “more than five” principals who attended a principals meeting in which Joseph played a portion of the song “Blow the Whistle” by rapper Too $hort. The song title refers to a sexual act in street lingo and describes women in a derogatory way.
Vice Chair Jill Speering filed a complaint with the district’s civil rights coordinator. The Tennessean quoted Speering as further saying the song was “highly offensive, reprehensible and inexcusable” to play in public. Speering and Joseph disagreed throughout last year’s budget process. Speering’s complaint says that the song is meant to disparage herself and board member Frogge for their opposition to Joseph.