Kentucky Superintendent Suspended Over 'Offensive' Blackface Photo

A Kentucky school superintendent has been suspended months after a photo showing him in blackface surfaced online.

Paducah Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Donald Shively must take 40 days of unpaid leave for additional training, the Paducah Public Schools Board of Education decided last week after a special meeting about the matter.

Shively has faced a backlash since the photo, originally taken at a Halloween party almost 20 years ago, was posted on social media on October 20, with the Paducah-McCracken County NAACP calling for his resignation, according to a spokesperson who discussed the matter with Newsweek on Wednesday.

In a statement at the time, Paducah Board of Education chair Carl LeBuhn said Shively had reported the existence of the photograph to the school board in February 2019 and after a review, no action was taken.

But in a lengthy statement issued after Friday's meeting, the board said that while its members had been aware of the image since last year, they viewed it for the first time when it was posted online in October.

"Board members were shocked, hurt and extremely disappointed to see the entire content of the photograph. The photo is a total contradiction to the vision and mission of the Paducah Public Schools," the board's statement said.

But it added that while the board "unequivocally agrees that the photo is offensive," it had decided to allow Shively to remain in his role.

The board said it had asked for public input about the matter and that board members had "countless conversations with community members."

It also said part of the time off to be taken by Shively will be used "to learn from and regain the trust of community leaders, parents, students, and teachers through individual and small group meetings."

The statement added that the board "will continue to evaluate Dr. Shively's effectiveness as Superintendent and his success achieving these goals."

The school board also said it will work with community leaders, educators, and administrators across Kentucky to "continue to identify opportunities for Dr. Shively, Board Members, and others in our school system to participate in educational and other efforts that will allow us all to advance our cultural sensitivity and communications."

Shively also issued a statement of apology, saying he had "gained a deeper understanding of [the[ hurt that I have created" after speaking with members of the African American community in recent weeks.

"I want to stress that I accept full responsibility for how my horrible and racially insensitive decision to wear black face has affected and impacted the community at large; especially the students of Paducah Public Schools," he said.

"Both personally and professionally, my actions have caused others severe pain; have created anger towards myself and others; have created issues of trust in me and our school district; and have created division in our community that we all love."

He added: "I do not just accept the board decision—I embrace the opportunity to learn and improve as a person and as a person who has influence on children, adults, and our community."

Protestors rally against Virginia Governor Ralph Northam outside of the governors mansion in downtown Richmond, Virginia on February 4, 2019 Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images