Shawnee Mission says it has placed former Horizons principal on ‘modified duty’ for coming school year

Megan Graves, left, organized a demonstration calling for the school district to fire Paul Colwell.

The Shawnee Mission School District announced last week that it would not be seating former Horizons Principal Paul Colwell as an assistant principal at SM West for the coming school year.

Colwell is the subject of a personnel investigation following detailed reporting in the Kansas City Star in which former students and colleagues alleged Colwell engaged in a pattern of inappropriate behavior involving bullying, sexism and racism.

“As you may be aware, the District recently hired an independent party to investigate a situation involving an administrator who has been assigned to Shawnee Mission West High School,” read a message sent to patrons from Superintendent Mike Fulton. “As is common in situations of this kind, and in the best interest of all parties, this staff member has been placed on modified duty during the course of the investigation, leaving an administrative vacancy at West.”

Fulton said SM West Principal Steve Loe was working to identify someone to fill the vacant assistant principal role for the coming year, and that the district would communicate with families once a candidate had been selected.

The district’s communications office said that Colwell’s “modified duty” will “not be a classroom role, but we have yet to determine exactly what that role will be.”

On Monday morning, a group of SM West parents and students set up along 85th Street outside the school’s main entrance holding up signs calling for Colwell to be fired.

Megan Graves, who has a bi-racial son who will be a sophomore at SM West this fall, said she organized the demonstration because she was concerned that Colwell may still be permitted to work with students. She said her experience with two children in Shawnee Mission school has been very positive, but that she believes the district was trying to “sweep some things under the rug” on this issue.

“Overall my experience has been good, except for hearing about this,” Graves said. “He needs to find a new outlet for a job.”

Another SM West parent, Megan Williams, has started an online petition calling for Colwell not to be allowed to serve in any role at SM West.