EPIC students call on charter management to reverse retaliatory firings of four teachers, including one educator identifying as non-heterosexual and targeted for his support of LGBTQIA+ students.
- 4 p.m.: Student rally for fired teachers, Epic charter high school, 8255 S. Houston Ave.
CHICAGO, June 9, 2021 — Students at Epic charter high school are holding a rally today at the school’s campus at 8255 S. Houston Ave. to demand that management reinstate four teachers — including three bargaining team members who have been unfairly targeted for their advocacy for students and educator rights. Students are also calling for an end to high teacher turnover, dismantling Epic’s school-to-prison pipeline and increasing their voice in decision-making.
At Epic, students have been organizing with parents and teachers for more than a week in demanding that Epic Executive Director LeeAndra Khan reverse her decision to fire the “Epic Four”: science teacher KeShawn Williams, who also advises the school’s LGBTQIA+ club; history teacher Priscilla Dixon, who also worked for Khan in her previous role as CEO for Chicago International Charter School when educators went on strike there in 2019; and math teachers Lawrence Marshall and Erik Thibault.
“[Khan] absolutely hates Priscilla,” said an individual close to bargaining, who asked not to be identified, but it is the targeting of Williams’ for openly not being a heterosexual-identifying individual that is the most egregious.
A Black male teacher (as is Marshall) in a profession dominated by women, Williams has a “proficient” evaluation rating and no disciplinary action from the school, yet has been singled out for his union activity and his activism on behalf of LGBTQIA+ students.
Meetings of the LGBTQIA+ club Williams advises at the school are routinely monitored by administration. When asked during a Tuesday evening staff meeting about the role of the Epic Board of Directors in his termination, he replied that it wasn’t the Board, but the school’s executive director who is retaliating against educators for their union activity.
“Those strings get pulled by LeeAndra Khan,” Williams said.
Williams is also the parent of a newborn and a member of the Urban Prep rank-and-file bargaining team, which recently won a tentative agreement for teachers and staff at the charter company’s three campuses.
Epic teachers and staff are currently in the process of ratifying a contract agreement, but that vote has been put on hold as they stand in solidarity with their colleagues and consider striking over the terminations. Educators have also filed an unfair labor practice charge against Khan and Epic for retaliation for protected union activities.