A school principal in New Orleans was suspended after a photograph surfaced showing him standing near a Confederate flag on the day before the city removed the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Nicholas Dean, a principal of Crescent Leadership Academy, told the local media on Tuesday that he was asked not to report to work following the surfacing over the controversial photo — which showed Dean standing by the soon-to-be-removed statue of Gen. Lee with a stars and bars in the background.
The academy where he works is aimed at serving students who were expelled from other schools due to behavioral or other problems. Its student body is overwhelmingly black while Dean is White.
Tracy Bennett-Joseph, the school’s superintendent, said Tuesday that the school will be investigating the situation over the next two weeks, nola.com reported.
The controversial picture that got the principal in hot water shows him standing near a man holding a Confederate flag as part of the crowd that gathered to protest the city’s decision to remove the statue of Robert. E. Lee.
Dean denied any support for the monument or having sympathies towards the Confederate flag, saying he was there just to witness the removal of the statue and that he left the area as soon as he noticed that there was no equipment in place to remove the statue.
He claims the picture is taken “out of context”, adding that “I went to see history in the making. And now I am history.”
The photograph was shared on social media and has turned into a viral post in the community. Multiple Facebook users were angered by the picture, assuming Dean was a supporter of the Confederacy and opposed the removal of the statue.
Malik Bartholomew, a Dillard University employee, asked: “Why is this man, a principal of a school of black and minority students, advocating for monuments of hate?”
“The men whose monuments he was supporting were members of the Confederacy and they were against black education.”
Others, however, questioned the suspension of the principal on the basis of one photograph. “He can believe in what he wants,” said Roshonda Smith. “As long as his beliefs don’t spill into my child’s education or well being, do what you please.”
Dean insists he went to the rally just to observe and not to express any stance towards the removal of the statue
“While I understand both sides of this highly charged debate, I went to the Lee monument for all the right reasons,” he said. “I went because I am a historian, educator and New Orleans resident who wanted to observe this monumental event.”
The suspended principal called the social media campaign against him a “fake-news character assassination.”
“People who know me know that I am a crusader for children and I fight tirelessly on their behalf,” Dean said. “In my 10 years of working with large minority populations, I’ve never been accused of racism. I am sorry that my staff, students, friends and family have to witnesses this.”