Only a few weeks ago, Nicholas Dean was a highly-regarded principal of a New Orleans school designed for at-risk students with nowhere else to go. He had once earned a glowing profile from NPR for his work.
Now Dean is out of a job after he became the focus of left-wing outrage when he attended a demonstration in front of New Orleans’ Confederate monuments in early May.
Dean was accused by local left-wing activists of wearing “white supremacist symbols” at the protest while giving an interview in support of the statues.
The educator told The Daily Caller he attended the protest to defend pro-Confederate demonstrators from attack by left-wing antifa. “I went to the monument protest on May 7th because a week earlier, on May 1st, a group of about a dozen monument supporters were swarmed and attacked by antifa at the Jefferson Davis monument,” Dean told TheDC.
“The antifa showed up in a military style vehicle, threw bottles at people, maced a woman in a wheelchair and punched the monument supporters. The police stood down while they were attacked. I went to stand for free speech and to oppose the Marxists by standing my ground,” he added.
At the May 7 demonstration, Dean said he “wore a helmet in case somebody threw bottles, and goggles in case somebody sprayed mace.”
The now-dismissed principal also wore rings displaying a Maltese crusader cross and a skull, along with a shield bearing the Spartan lamba symbol and the words “Come” and “Take.” These are the regalia leftists considered to be white supremacist.
These symbols, however, are popular with many conservatives in America. Gun rights enthusiasts, in particular, are fond of the Spartan declaration, which is typically spelled out in full as “Come and Take It.”
A representative for the Anti-Defamation League told The New Orleans Advocate that the symbols were not enough to prove that the person displaying them is some kind of right-wing extremist.
Dean also talked with a podcast about why he was protesting in favor of the monuments. He also said the removal of the statues would do nothing to alleviate New Orleans’ crime problem that primarily hurts black residents, and that the removal is the work of a “black nationalist” group bent on erasing history.
Those factors were apparently enough for Dean’s employer, Crescent Leadership Academy, to suspend and then fire him. In a statement to the press, the school’s superintendent Kunjan Narechania implied Dean’s actions showed that he is “unwilling to prioritize and respect the humanity of all children.”
Dean says he wasn’t even given a formal reason for his dismissal. “The school did not give me a reason for termination. I was not presented with any type of counseling or disciplinary paperwork at any point and I was terminated without a written cause,” he told The Daily Caller.
For more than three years, Dean was the principal of CLA, a school that is nearly 99 percent African-American and where many of its students regularly deal with deadly violence outside of the classroom.
Prior to termination, his work had been praised by several city leaders and news outlets. Dean was listed as a participating partner in Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s murder-reduction campaign “Nola For Life” due to his work with at-risk youth. A five-part series in The New Orleans Times-Picayune on one of the troubled teens Dean worked with highlighted how the principal dramatically turned around CLA once he took over.
The newspaper noted that under Dean’s leadership fights plummeted, re-expulsions were eliminated and the new principal worked to bring community college vocational training, dorms for homeless students and other positive features to the school to differentiate it from a prison.
He also implemented strict rules for improving student behavior, which included: “Tuck in your shirt, no profanity, keep your hands to yourself, be on time, stay in your seat, learn something in class.”
Thanks to Dean, the troubled teen The Times-Picayune profiled, Sean Talley, was able to graduate — and so were many of his peers.
Several students praised Dean in NPR’s profile of CLA and were adamant he was the reason the school made a big improvement. “The principal, Mr. Dean, is a good man,” one student told NPR. “He works with you.”
“When I assumed the principalship three years ago, the school was under an intensive state monitoring. There were numerous audit violations, and the school had three principals in two years. There was a high suspension and expulsion rate, and acts of violence had tarnished the school’s image,” Dean told TheDC of the situation he took on when he became principal.
“During my first year we came off of intensive monitoring, reduced the expulsion rate by 87% and reduced the suspension rate by 53%. We had a 100% graduation rate from that year on. We received a considerable amount of positive community and media attention and completed the requirements to receive both a charter extension and renewal,” he says of his work, which he credits to the team the school had in place.
But the school appeared to think Dean’s out-of-the-classroom political speech was more important than his work on the clock. The ex-principal blames the “media blowback” for his dismissal and says it painted him a very unfair light.
“This story painted me out to be a white supremacist overseer of a black school,” he said. “Variations of it have stated that I seek to strip education from the students and that I even fast track them to jail. The way I was presented was calculated by the photographer at the monument and by the person that created the fake meme. It was a perfect PR nightmare and they decided I was not worth the media blowback.”
The ex-principal, who has spent nearly 11 years in the field of alternative and juvenile justice, was adamant he didn’t try to make his students think as he does, but to “make them think critically. We need critical thinkers to evaluate the landscape and find a place where they can affect positive change.”
On his politics, Dean says, “I want to see our nation do well through a healthy, strong, and educated populace. I believe it is my civic responsibility to live these values and to oppose tyranny, whether imposed through a pen or a sword.”
To add to Dean’s troubles, he recently underwent back surgery and his unemployment has made it tougher to pay off the costs of the operations. Friends have set up a GoFundMe to help him meet the expenses.
Looking back at his situation, Dean reflected on how things have taken a dramatic turn for him and how he hopes to turn it around. “I was the provider for my family and now my career has been destroyed. I need a job where my skill set can be of value, and I need to find a lawyer that can help right this wrong.”