VALLEY, Ala. — Valley High School’s band director is on unpaid leave while the school district investigates reports of racist “gag gifts” being given out at a club banquet.
Chambers County Superintendent Kelli Hodge tells News 3 the “Gag Awards” was part of the high school band’s end of the year banquet.She said the seniors come up with awards, and the band votes on who should receive them.
One mother took to social media expressing her outrage over the “Hernandez Award” named in the banquet containing a pail, shovel, fake green card, chips and salsa.
News 3 has reached out to the woman named in the social media post for comment.
The full response from Superintendent Kelli Hodge is as follows:
“First, the award was not actually given to a student, but that is because the student was not at the banquet. While the mother did not contact the school system for us to handle the situation before going to social media, we have dealt with the issue anyway. The band director is currently on unpaid leave through the end of the school year. The so called “Gag Awards” were directed to never take place again. A formal, written apology is being issued today to all band students and parents. There could possibly be more action taken after next week’s board meeting. 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. Sadly, this was allowed to happen at the band banquet. However, those in charge have been dealt with and further board action could occur.”
-Kelli Hodge, Chambers County School Superintendent
Superintendent Hodge added that the students who presented the award have been spoken to and are not being punished. She added that one of the students took it upon himself to call the mother the day after the awards and apologize, which the superintendent respected. She added that even though Chandler did not come up with the specific award, he is the supervisor and should be aware of everything that takes place from beginning to end.
Band Director, Shannon Chandler released the following apology to band members and parents.
I want to sincerely apologize for an event that took place at our recent band banquet. I allowed our students to present gag awards that were insensitive and inappropriate towards others. As an adult, educator, and a Christian, I should have realized the insensitiveness of these awards. My hope and prayer is that each of you can forgive me for my actions. If I caused any embarrassment to you, a family member, or anyone else who was in attendance, then I want to say that I am truly sorry. If I have caused any damage to your reputation, then I am truly sorry for this act as well. I owe you all an apology for breaking a sacred trust. I should have practiced better judgement when entrusted with teenagers, and I am truly sorry for breaking that trust. I hope that in the future, I can regain your trust as students and as parents.”