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State opens investigation into Wausau teacher accused of anti-Asian slur

District's decision to return band director to classroom has prompted backlash

Wausau School District
Wausau School District. Rob Mentzer/WPR

A Wausau teacher accused of using anti-Asian racial slurs is the subject of an investigation by the state Department of Public Instruction.

DPI lists the teaching license of Wausau East High School band director Rob Perkins as “under investigation.” A DPI spokesperson confirmed the investigation and said there is no set timeline for its completion.

The Wausau School District completed its own investigation into Perkins’ behavior after a high school senior accused him of using racial slurs and targeting the student based on his sexual orientation. The district found Perkins was guilty of “insensitive and unprofessional conduct” but not of harassment or discrimination, and returned him to the classroom.

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That prompted backlash from the student’s family, who spoke out in local media interviews, and among Asian American leaders, who released a letter calling on the district to take stronger disciplinary action. A new petition from these leaders calls for Perkins to be fired and for the district to publicly apologize and create a task force on racial equity.

School district leaders have declined to comment on the specifics of the case. In a statement to media, Wausau Superintendent Keith Hilts said the district would not tolerate disrespectful behavior and would take action to reinforce expectations of respect, including hiring an outside consultant “to better understand and improve the experiences our students and staff are having in our schools.”