Tag Archives: Keven Wynkoop

OPINION: Fighting a Hostile Learning Environment Within Seattle Public Schools

by Emi Ponce de Souza with An-Lon Chen


Just over a year ago, my son Eric Anthony Souza-Ponce, then a high school senior, filed a formal complaint against Ballard High School. Over the course of a semester, English teacher Wendy Olsen had perpetrated negative racial stereotypes and Principal Keven Wynkoop had shielded her from responsibility. We hope that detailing our family’s experience will help make the complaint process easier for fellow Seattle Public Schools (SPS) students and their families to navigate.

Our case took ten months from beginning to end. Several weeks after The Seattle Times ran an article about the district’s findings, at least two other families filed complaints. Shortly after those complaints were filed, the district placed Principal Wynkoop on administrative leave without specifying its reasons.

This was an important step, but only a partial one. Wendy Olsen continues to teach at Ballard High. Acting Principal Dr. Joseph Williams III, a Black man, faces an uphill battle in trying to change an entrenched culture. Perhaps most glaringly, none of the district’s determinations addressed the issue of race. Trying to prove a school-wide history of racial microaggressions was like nailing Jell-O to the wall.

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