The recently-removed principal of an Old Town magnet school is charged with felony aggravated battery for allegedly striking a cafeteria worker in the face with a water bottle in March.
Kurtis Cunningham-Jones, who resigned last week, was released on a recognizance bond Friday by Cook County Judge Mary Marubio.
Prosecutors said Jones and other workers from Franklin Fine Arts Center, 225 West Evergreen got together to distribute meals to children who were sheltering at home during the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak on March 20.
Afterward, Jones and staffers ate lunch in the school cafeteria and Jones suggested that everyone should play dodge ball, according to prosecutors. When cafeteria worker Lynette Jenkins said she did not want to play, Jones threw some food on the floor “to be funny,” according to allegations laid out in bond court.
Jenkins again said she didn’t want to play games or horseplay and she went to the food preparation area while other staffers began “horsing around.”
At some point, Jones entered the kitchen area and threw a shoe at Jenkins before he hurled a disposable water bottle that struck her above the eye, prosecutors said. Jenkins allegedly became disoriented and her nose began bleeding profusely.
Prosecutors said Jones was shocked, apologized immediately, and left the area.
“It just hit me so hard and I just went back some,” Jenkins told the Sun-Times in April. “I put my hand over my face and I started yelling. I said, ‘My effing face, you hit me in my effing face.’”
Jenkins went to an immediate care facility where she received a stitch to close a cut on her face. She was later found to have a concussion and has suffered recurring headaches, prosecutors said.
Jones, age 46, has “a history of horsing around and trying to scare staff members,” according to a prosecutor who said Jones previously threw chairs off a balcony and threw an apple at Jenkins two weeks before the water bottle incident.
According to the state’s allegations, staff members complained about Jones’ behavior to the school’s assistant principal, but no action was taken.
Before giving Jones a recognizance bond, Marubio said the case appeared to be “horseplay that goes awry” and said the charge is a felony only because it happened on school property and the alleged victim is a school employee.
“It happened in March and here we are in June with a sudden felony approval,” Marubio said.
Jones has been an educator for 20 years and has never been disciplined, his private attorney said.
According to details laid out in a change.org petition after the cafeteria incident, Jenkins has worked in Franklin’s cafeteria for 16 years.
“I told him from the get-go, I wasn’t playing, I had to do my work,” Jenkins said. “I was just in disbelief. I couldn’t believe he had thrown an object like that at anybody.”
Update October 1, 2021 — Judge Angela Munari-Petrone found Jones not guilty on all charges in a bench trial. He had been charged with three felony counts of aggravated battery.