During the weekend of September 14-15, Michael Hayhurst, a local school administrator who also moonlights as a rodeo clown, was in Creaston, a community in the San Luis Obispo area; he was a participant in the rodeo that weekend.
Hayhurst took to the microphone and told a joke that bottomed out. The local attendees did not think it appropriate or funny. In this technology-driven atmosphere the remarks circled the globe and VictorValley residents began to find the joke on their Facebook walls and in email attachments. Hayhurst’s inappropriate remarks were: “Playboy offered Ann Romney $250,000.00 to pose for them; the White House is upset because National Geographic only offered Michelle Obama $50.00.” Though some folks declared it was his right to free speech, they are obviously not remembering the long-held link that has been alluded to people of dark African complexion as having descended from primates. This allusion has produced images of the President’s head atop a primate’s body. When anthropologists discovered primates and Africans on the same continent, they assumed that there must be a genetic link in their heritage.
This is what made the allusion so bitter to Americans of African heritage and other progressive individuals who understood the meaning behind the words. Hayhurst was the superintendent of ExcelsiorCharterSchool in Victorville; it has been named as one of the best high schools nationally by U S. News and World Report.
When news of “the joke” broke, the board was flooded with letters demanding his resignation. They issued a memorandum on the 18th stating the “although the board was not at liberty to disclose facts or details about the allegations made against the administrator at a public event, they (the board) nor any staff member condoned any offensive statements made by employees of the school neither in the workplace nor off duty” as was the case with Hayhurst.
Early Monday morning the board convened a public meeting to get input from the community. Although many were not aware of the meeting, community voices speaking out were Mrs. Lorrie Denson, a facilitator at ExcelsiorCharterSchool; her husband, Dr. David Denson, pastor of BurningBushBaptistChurch in Victorville, who told the board he was standing for his wife. If this was the opinion the superintendent had of the First Lady of the United States, what would his opinion be of Mrs. Denson, who works for him. Deborah Johnson, a parent of a senior who has attended the school since he was in 7th grade, was one of the community voices, and Curtis Greene, who ended his remarks with the quote from First Lady Michelle Obama at the DNC convention: “The office does not change the man, it reveals the character of the man.” When the public meeting ended, the board went into closed session. When they returned, the decision had been made to place Hayhurst on administrative leave pending further action. Later in the day he tendered his resignation.
We cannot stop the flow of negative vitriolic mud that flows from people's beliefs about us, but perhaps if more job losses, and negative press is added to the mix, people will begin to see that prejudice against another people that denigrates them is biased and perpetuates the culture of racism in the children who grow up listening to that poison.
Charter schools in the State of California operate under a public school district. Excelsior operates under the auspices of Victor Valley Union High School Board of Trustees, although it has its own board that makes operating decisions. None of the board of trustees could comment on the official proceedings of the case, but they are collectively breathing a sigh of relief.