Kevin Michael Henry, who won a school board seat in the November elections, was kept from assuming office on Wednesday evening as a result of a state background check that turned up criminal records from 25 years ago, according to state documents and school board members.
A fingerprint background check conducted by the New Jersey Department of Education’s Criminal History Review Unit found “the presence of a conviction for a crime or offense considered to be disqualifying in nature,” read a letter from the department to state-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans dated January 5th, 2016.
The letter appears to have been faxed to Evans on Wednesday afternoon just hours before the meeting in which Henry was expected to be sworn into office. Henry, who appeared in attire with members of his family, received the letter sometime today.
Henry made a scene at the John F. Kennedy High School auditorium by running up the stage and initiating an aggressive interaction with Evans. “Where’s my seat?” he shouted at Evans, who along with board members, was seated at the stage area of the auditorium.
“Where’s my seat, house nigga?” he lashed out at the superintendent. “I ain’t scared of you!” As district officials beckoned security guards to escort him off the stage and out of the building his son shouted from the audience: “He was elected!”
Henry’s use of the racial epithets shocked many in the audience which included many school children and parents. Christopher Irving, school board president, condemned Henry’s attack on the superintendent, but thought it unfair to hold up criminal records from 25 years ago against him.
“That display is not how we should do things,” said Irving. “It’s just not the way we should conduct ourselves as elected officials.”
Irving apologized to the superintendent and the audience members. He said Henry should challenge the state’s decision.
“My lawyer said it doesn’t rise to the level of offenses that is warranted for me to lose my seat,” said Henry. He said he was convicted of theft by deception and forgery in 1991 and served his time behind bars.
Henry was released in 2004 after serving time. He worked through a program with a local church to become a deacon. He also runs a reentry program to assist those coming out of prison integrate into society.
“I really changed my life. I never was a drug addict or anything like that. I had the drug addict mentality. I was addicted to money,” said Henry. “I left that life. I tried to improve my life.”
Henry received much media attention after he heckled governor Chris Christie to fix the city’s public school system. He won the school board seat without giving a single speech or attending any forums.
Henry was certified as one of the three winners from the November elections. The other winners were Nakima Redmon and Oshin Castillo both of whom were sworn in. Irving said the chaotic scene spoiled the ceremony for Redmon and Castillo.
Henry said he intends to challenge the state’s decision to prevent him from assuming the board of education seat.
“I’m going to be back on the school board,” he said.