To federal investigators, Queon Jackson is the focus of an investigation into a multi-state credit fraud ring.
But to many students at Madison Park Vocational Technical High School in Roxbury, he is the neatly dressed acting headmaster who gives free food to the neediest students and presses all of them to aspire to greatness.
On Thursday morning, as word spread that the School Department had placed Jackson on leave, more than 100 students staged a brief but passionate walk-out, hoisting hastily written signs that read “Bring Back Jackson.”
“He’s the reason some of us are still here,” said Kemauree Williams, a 17-year-old junior. “Some kids have nothing to look forward to. He motivates them.”
Students had taken to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #bringbackjackson, to announce the walk-out. By 9:45 a.m., more than 100 students streamed out into the football field, then marched to the front of the school on Malcolm X Boulevard. They were soon joined by dozens more, who came out after someone pulled a fire alarm.
“We want Jackson! We want Jackson!” they yelled, many of them shivering in the 27 degree temperatures. Some had rushed out without their coats. One student donned a white shirt with the words “MP for Jackson” scrawled in red marker in the front and “Bring Back Jackson” in black marker on the back.
Several students said they did not believe the report detailed Thursday in the Globe that their 39-year-old headmaster, known for his conservative bow ties and high-water slacks, could be part of a credit-fixing scheme. He is suspected of fraudulently obtaining credit, then failing to pay the bills.
In 2000, before he was hired by the school system, Jackson admitted to sufficient facts for a finding of guilty in a drug case and a domestic abuse case that required him to take an anger management class. This type of plea is commonly used by defendants to avoid a criminal record.
But students say they know a different side of him.
“He’s a great person,” said Brandon John, a 17-year-old junior. “He kept me out of trouble.”
Another junior, 17-year-old Paris Thomas, and her friend, senior Brianna Odom, were circulating a petition calling on the school to bring Jackson back.
By 10 a.m., they had gathered nearly 1,000 signatures, Odom said.
“Nobody believes it,” she said of the investigation.
“He hasn’t done anything except improve the school,” Thomas said.
She said she had talked to students who saw Jackson on Thursday. The headmaster had wept as he broke the news that he would be placed on leave, Thomas said.
She later called him on his cellphone to tell him she would be circulating a petition to bring him back.
“We’ve got a bond,” Thomas said. “He’s always there.”
School officials and Boston police waited patiently as students continued chanting, convinced that the cold eventually would draw them back inside the building.
“We’re not going back in until Mr. Jackson comes back,” Williams vowed.
Eventually, the cold won out and after about 30 minutes, school officials were able to usher the students back inside. Maria Cramer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.