The East New York middle school bandleader who allegedly duct-taped a 9-year-old's mouth shut on Tuesday was trying to teach a lesson about slavery, according to a statement prosecutors say he made.
When the volunteer head of IS 292's Soul Tigers marching band Kenyatte Hughes pulled the tape away, it left the student's lip cracked and face swollen, a prosecutor told the court on Wednesday. Hughes explained, as the Daily News reported, that he taped the kid's face "to explain how slavery worked," according to Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Wilfredo Cotto.
Hughes is facing assault, weapons possession, and child endangerment charges after the victim's parents heard about the incident and complained to the police. A judge released him without bail yesterday, though prosecutors sought $20,000 bail.
An Education Department spokeswoman said Hughes is now banned from all public schools. A 12-year-old student named Joseph whom the New York Times talked to said Hughes "was just playing around," that the boy was laughing as Hughes applied the tape, and that he seemed okay afterwards.
"[Hughes is] like a father," Joseph said. "He teaches us how to do right."
Another student recalled Hughes making kids do push-ups as punishment.
Hughes revived the Soul Tigers marching band in 2002 as a way to try to keep kids out of trouble, and achieved acclaim, garnering lots of press and performances at the Macy's Thanksgiving parade, in Senegal, and in Panama. He played with an earlier version of the band as a student growing up in Brooklyn, and his father was principal at the middle school until 2011. This year, the band lost its rehearsal space at the school because, Hughes suspected, of ill will between the new principal and his dad, her former boss.
Hughes's father Everett told the Times his son was "joking" with the tape, but that the joke would probably end his time with the school and the band.
"You make one mistake and that’s it," he said, "and he made a mistake."