Dozens protested at Paducah Tilghman High School on Sunday calling on Paducah Public Schools Superintendent Donald Shively to resign, following more than a week of community unrest after a past photo of Shively in blackface surfaced online.
Paducah Public Schools alumni, students, and parents of students marched around the high school holding signs that read, “Resign Shively” and “My race is not a costume,” with several people giving speeches to the crowd.
A photo of Shively in blackface wearing a Paducah-Tilghman shirt recently emerged, as first reported by WPSD-TV and the Paducah Sun. Shively claims the photo was from a Halloween party in the early 2000s and has since apologized, meeting with students and the local NAACP chapter, which is calling for his resignation. But parents at the protest say the black community’s pain and broken trust over the photo hasn’t been adequately addressed.
“Let’s say you were to drop a glass. You can take and pick up the pieces to that glass, and you can put the glue on it,” said Malinda Jones, a parent at the protest. “But are you going to take your finest beverage and pour in that glass and trust that it’s not going to seep out? He can say, ‘I’m sorry.’ We can put that glass back together. But the trust is now broken.”
Jones, who said she was student council president at the high school in the 1990s, added the school board for Paducah Public Schools is also at fault, saying they’re not listening to the community’s concerns and calls for action. A previous statement from the school board chairman Carl LeBuhn said Shively told the board about the photo in February 2019, and that Shively expressed remorse. Based on a description of the photo at that time, the board decided not to take action against Shively because of his remorse and past work and dedication for the district.
Jones said the board could have started a new conversation about taking action when the actual photo emerged, but did not do so. Some at the protest also called for the resignations of school board members.
“It is time for us to get past this and say, ‘You got to go.’ Some of you board members, just resign. Let’s start up fresh,” said Katrina Lee Marshall, another parent and Paducah Tilghman High School alumnus. “Let’s have better people come in who are really going to understand what is going on now, in this time, and that it’s not working anymore.”
Online petitions have circulated, one calling for the resignation of Shively and the school board, and another supporting Shively to remain in his position. Republican State Sen. Danny Carroll previously posted on Facebook supporting Shively. Tracey Lenox, who graduated from Paducah Tilghman High School in 1999 and parent of a student, said protesters will have to persist as community members continue to take sides on the issue.
“My question to the community that are for him: If he would have took a picture — the costume — as a special needs student, would they still feel the same way? It’s easy to ask for someone to forgive when you’re not the one who was offended,” Lenox said.
Correction: A hypen was removed from Paducah Tilghman High School.