California principal drops bombshell possible reason for being let go before controversial graduation speech

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EXCLUSIVE – An outgoing California principal whose commencement remarks got him escorted off campus told Fox News Wednesday that he suspects his removal may be linked to district politics and his defense of a Black colleague.

Ben Nakamura, the former principal of Stagg High School, delivered a controversial speech at graduation Monday – garnering national attention after officials led him away, took his keys and placed him on administrative leave.

While he’s not sure why his contract wasn’t renewed, or why the job went to someone else after he reapplied and made it to the final round of interviews – there’s more to the story, he said.


He was in a meeting with the school’s four assistant principals, he said, when one of them, whom he declined to name, turned to a Black colleague and asked the following, according to Nakamura:

“Why do no Black students value education? And then if one Black student decides that they want to do well, every other Black student pulls them down.”

That remark, he alleged, was emblematic of other interactions between this person and other African American school employees.

The Black assistant principal filed a complaint, Nakamura said, but no investigation had occurred a month after the district’s 90-day timeline expired.

“He said, ‘You know, these things are still happening. Can you follow through with it?’” Nakamura said.

Despite giving the district a list of 12 other alleged targets of bullying, Nakamura said only he and the original complainant were interviewed – by a school-hired attorney, which he said seemed unusual.

“The next day, we both get a phone call separately that we’re being let go,” he said.

The district does not make statements on personnel matters and a spokeswoman declined to comment on whether there had been an investigation into the discrimination allegation.


“This is a typical case of discrimination,” said civil rights attorney Waukeen McCoy. “Here you have Ben exercising a protected activity, which is opposing discrimination in the workplace, have an investigative interview, reporting his assistant principal, and then he was in turn retaliated against.”

He called Nakamura’s ouster and subsequent treatment after the graduation ceremony “criminal-like culture in academia.”

“He had heard some things that this particular individual had said about Black people, Black students,” McCoy said. “And so that’s what he told the investigator, the attorney who interviewed him. And then the next day, he was told that he was no longer going to be the principal the following year. So, you know, there’s a causal connection between is opposing discrimination and termination.”


Nakamura gained national attention with his speech Monday, in which he aired out the reasoning behind his impending departure and claimed, “Successful people will do whatever it takes to stomp on top of others and pull them down to climb their way to the top.”

On Wednesday, he said he meant to promote integrity and ethics along the path to success, not the pursuit of success without principles.

“We should aspire for not only success, but to be significant, meaning we should leave a legacy of integrity,” he said over the phone. “And so the ends don’t justify the means.”

He also criticized “the system” and told students he had been removed from his role and had not chosen to leave them.

“There are several emails and agenda items making it clear that all principals, students and trustees were to record their speech,” Meza said in a statement. “Mr. Nakamara and all principals were informed about the guidelines in April and May.”

The district also said it received complaints that with the speech, Nakamura “used the graduation as a platform for his personal grievances,” and disputed his claims that the school saw improvements and accreditation under his leadership.

A video recording indicated the audience cheered at the end of his remarks, and Nakamura said he received an overwhelmingly positive response.

The principal, who is vaccinated and said he stood about 30 feet away from seated students as he spoke, is also accused of violating coronavirus guidelines.


“[Stockton Unified School District] received guidance from CDPH (California’s Department of Public Health) to keep graduations short,” district spokeswoman Melinda Meza told Fox News Wednesday. “SUSD’s Director of Educational Services, who oversees graduations, sent several emails and agenda items to all principals and board members that speeches were going to be videotaped and aired at the virtual ceremony.”

He was not escorted out of the area until after the ceremony had concluded, Meza said.