3:53pm PT by Ashley Cullins
Real-life 'Glee' Choir Director Suspended Amid Claims of Inappropriate Texts About Students
While Glee's high school choir teacher was portrayed as a cheerful, earnest do-gooder, his real-life counterpart is being accused of making racially and sexually inappropriate comments about students and flouting school district policies.
Just weeks after being dismissed from a copyright infringement lawsuit, Brett Carroll, the show choir director from the Los Angeles-area school that is said to have inspired the Fox musical series, faced a much more serious problem. He was placed on administrative leave after a complaint letter was sent to school officials claiming texts sent by Carroll show the Burbank High School fixture isn't fit to be an educator.
Burbank Unified School District public information officer Kimberley Clark confirmed in January that Carroll was on paid administrative leave while the district investigated the complaint. On Friday, Carroll returned to work, which Clark confirmed, but she could not comment further on the circumstances because it is personnel matter.
In a letter sent Jan. 5 by Mark Greenburg, the CEO of Tresona Multimedia — a music licensing company currently suing Burbank High School Vocal Music Association for allegedly using songs without paying to license them — to Burbank High's principal and superintendent (as well as the local PTA and the disciplinary staff of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing), Greenburg claims Carroll made repeated explicit and derogatory comments about students in text messages sent to Josh Greene, an arranger hired to work on school productions.
"This letter is to bring your attention to some shocking actions that Mr. Carroll has taken as a teacher — things that disqualify him from teaching high school students," writes Greenburg.
Greenburg's claims are based on documents produced by attorneys for Greene as part of the copyright suit. Both Carroll and the vocal music association have sued Greene, arguing that he chose the songs at issue in the Tresona litigation and either stated or implied that no licenses were needed. Greene has asserted numerous defenses, including fair use.
Greenburg's complaint includes 417 pages of texts, along with 14 pages of highlights with titles. Conversation summaries from the section on "inappropriate sexualization of students and other sexual comments" include: "Carroll refers to a student as 'Tits and ass girl'"; "Carroll jokes about sexual contact with a male student"; and "Carroll and Greene discuss choosing performers based on whether they’re sexy."
One such conversation went like this, according to the court documents (names of students have been removed. Typos have not been corrected.):
Greene: Do you have any really little kids? That have a "cute" childlike voice. Like…Everyone's heart is breaking over. That poor little homeless girl."
Carroll: Besides [girl]? Tits and ass girl.
Greene: Yeah, I know [girl]. She does not strike me as a little kid.
In another conversation, the two men discuss whether students are sufficiently sexy for a role:
Greene: Have you picked your main stripper? The new girl who wreaks havoc?
Carroll: This is different from baller chick.
Greene: Yeah. Should be one of your sexier girls. They sing about a new girl comin to the stage who won't let them down. She's the one we talked about having a sash that said "crash" or "credit default swap" But the sash will say "avarice."
Carroll: They're all sexy to me....
Greene: Gross… I just need to know if she can sing and what her range is. I have notes on all the soloists. But don’t remember how they look.
Burbank's show choirs are widely referenced as the inspiration for the fictional McKinley High club on Glee, which ran on Fox from 2009-2015. In Sync, Burbank's advanced group, participated in Glee's series pilot and performed at parties connected to the show. Although it's worth noting that the show's writer, Ian Brennan, says he drew from his own experiences in show choir.
"Mr. Carroll and I have our differences about copyright, but this goes so far beyond that," Greenburg tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I was shocked when I read what he wrote. My first thought was, as a father, this sort of thing is too dangerous to keep secret."
Carroll's attorneys requested, among other things, all documents concerning communications to which Greene and Carroll were parties from January 2011 to present. The 400 pages of text messages between the two men from the last five years are among the documents produced.
Greenburg also cites examples of "inappropriate comments about race," in which Carroll refers to a band member as being "gaysian" and jokes that a competitor is traveling to China because they're "very hungry for eggrolls." There also are summaries of conversations that Greenburg describes as apparent drug use, inappropriate comments about district personnel and cheating at show choir competitions.
"These messages speak for themselves and I hope you will agree with me that Brett Carroll should not be in a position of teaching high school students," writes Greenburg in the letter. "A formal review of all 417 pages of these texts will reveal more shocking texts about Burbank students and other choral educators."
Carroll was unaware of the complaint when first contacted by THR on Jan. 11. He and his attorneys have not commented on the document since receiving it. But Greene’s attorney Christiane Kinney has emailed the other attorneys involved in the matter and retroactively designated the text messages as confidential. Carroll's attorney did not respond to a request for comment on the administrative leave.
Feb. 11, 6:30 p.m. Updated to reflect that Carroll returned to work on Friday.