Kanye West has been accused in a lawsuit of allowing a bullying culture to permeate his Donda Academy, among several other complaints.
The rapper founded the Christian preparatory private school in Simi Valley, California last September with an aim to “prepare students to become the next generation of leaders”.
A lawsuit launched by two former teachers at the school, which Rolling Stone has obtained, claims that the academy fostered an environment of bullying, violated health and safety measures, and had infrastructure and rules in place that negatively impacted student welfare.
The two claimants in the lawsuit, Cecilia Hailey and her daughter Chekarey Byers, alleged that they were unfairly fired from the Donda Academy last month in retaliation for reporting code violations.
Additionally, they claim that they experienced racial discrimination and received payslips with money missing in the thousands.
Representatives for the Donda Academy did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
A lawyer for Hailey and Byers, Ron Zambrano, said in a statement: “Kanye West is clearly as bad at running a school as he is at managing his own personal and professional life, enabling an unsafe and illegal school environment for students that also discriminated against the plaintiffs based on their race.
“These egregious violations at Donda Academy are just another example of West’s unusual behaviour, and our clients just won’t stand for it, no matter his celebrity status. Kanye needs to realise his genius is in creating music, not in school administration.”
Byers added: “I’m extremely sad about all of this. It was such a huge honour and privilege to work at Donda Academy for Kanye West. I’m a huge Kanye fan. His first album was the first I ever purchased. I still enjoy his music, and I’ll never deny his talent, but while his vision for the school sounds great on paper, it’s just pure chaos and mutiny. It’s like a mental hospital being run by the patients.”
News of the lawsuit follows a Rolling Stone investigation last year that found that, at the time, Donda Academy was still not accredited. It also discovered that the principal and executive director hadn’t previously held formal positions as educators, and that families sending their children to the school had to sign non-disclosure agreements.
Hailey and Byers, who in the suit are claimed to have been the “only female, African American teachers at Donda Academy”, were third and fifth-grade teachers respectively.
Hailey, who had 25 years educational experience and served as a dean of two colleges, claims to have noticed “multiple health and safety violations, as well as unlawful educational practices” at the school.
Furthermore, it’s alleged that the school lacked a “proper disciplinary system” and that students were “subject to severe bullying”. The suit outlines an incident where a student allegedly assaulted an eighth-grader by “slapping her” before trying to “assault another teacher”.
The student in question is claimed to have been been involved in numerous bullying incidents before, “both physically and verbally”, but all incidents were left undisciplined.
Hailey has claimed that she complained to Donda Academy’s principal/director, Moira Love, on at least three separate occasions but “no action was taken to remedy” the issues raised.
Instead, the suit claims that Love called Hailey and Byers “aggressive” in front of others, which the claimaints believe “facilitates stereotypes about African-American women as being confrontational simply for doing their job and voicing their legitimate concerns in order to provide a safe environment and proper education for their students”.
Hailey also tried to raise some issues with West himself but was allegedly “threatened not to reach out to him”.
The two former Donda Academy teachers also claim that their payslips regularly came up short of “approximately $1,800 to $2,700 per pay period”.
According to the suit, Hailey and Byers were fired on March 3 upon arriving at Donda Academy. “When asked why they were being terminated,” the suit reads, “Defendants did not provide them with a reason. Plaintiffs are informed and believe that they were terminated in retaliation for their complaints about Defendants’ unlawful and unsafe educational practices.”
Elsewhere in the allegations the claimants said that the school had neither janitorial services, security precautions, nor even a school nurse or medical access (one student’s EpiPen was allegedly “stored on top of the microwave”).
Students were “not allowed to bring any outside food for anything other than water”, the suit continues to claim, and “it was widely known that Defendant West spends $10,000 a week on sushi”.
There were no chairs at the school other than a stool for teachers, meaning that students had to sit on a foam cushion or stand up, the lawsuit claims further, and the school was allegedly “locked from the outside during the school day”. Students allegedly had to eat their lunch on the floor “as there were no tables”.
West is also claimed to have banned crossword puzzles, colouring sheets, utensils for eating, and prohibited classes from taking place on the second floor because he was “reportedly afraid of stairs”.
Students were claimed to only be allowed to wear “black from head to toe” (no Nike or Adidas). West also allegedly “did not allow colour in the classrooms or artwork hung on the walls”.