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Band director suspended over “Gag Gift”

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By Alton Mitchell

As the 2016-2017 school year winds to a close pranks and gags are something that are anticipated by exiting seniors at local high schools. One so called “gag gift” at a Chambers County high school has landed a teacher in the hot seat and on leave following what students thought would be a unique gag gift for one of their fellow classmates, but Chambers County School administrators are not laughing about the gift.

Valley High School Band Director, Shannon Chandler has been placed on an unpaid leave in reference to an incident at the schools band banquet. Seniors came up with the gift which was called the “Hernandez Award”. The award consisted of a shovel, pail, fake green card, chips and salsa. The band voted on a select student to receive that award. The identity of that student has not been released.

A post on Facebook by the mother of the student who was due to receive the award was posted, but has now been removed. According to the post the mother of the student attended the band banquet and was disgusted by the Hernandez award which the winner was awarded a pail and bucket to dig across the border. The post goes further and names other awards that were supposed to carry a humorous tone, but could be seen as offensive as was her observation with the “Hernandez Award”.

Dr. Kelli Hodge, Superintendent of the Chambers County School District released a statement to local television station WRBL in which she stated, “The Chambers County Board of Education does not condone harassing behavior based on race, religion, disability, or any other area. Our goal is to provide an environment that does not needlessly expose students to unnecessary embarrassment or disparagement.” The statement also states says that the “Gag Awards” were directed to never take place again.

The mother of the anticipated recipient of the “Hernandez Award” seems pleased with the action taken by Superintendent Hodge. On Saturday she took back to social media where her post was first sent out and updated the post with the following statement:

“I spoke out that the gag awards were wrong. The school, the director, and the school board have all admitted that the awards were insensitive and wrong as well. My intentions were to shine the light on something that I was afraid would be harmful to my children as well as others. The gag awards have been removed from our school and in my opinion this is a positive change for our children,” states the mother of the student who was set to receive the award.

The “Gag Awards” have been discontinued and the band director Shannon Chandler was placed on unpaid leave through the end of the school year. Chandler also issued an apology for the events that took place at the band banquet to students and parents. In the statement Chandler closed by saying, “I hope that in the future, I can regain your trust as students and as parents”.