Valley High School band director apologizes for inappropriate gag award

CHAMBERS COUNTY, AL (WTVM) – An inappropriate gag award was put together for a Valley High School band banquet on Monday, and now the band director has been placed on leave.

According to Chambers County Superintendent Kelli Hodge, the 'Hernandez Award' contained a pail and shovel to dig the way back across the border, a green card, and chips and salsa. These are all things that could be considered offensive to the Hispanic community.

Seniors in the band put the award together and the entire band votes on who would get the award.

The student who was supposed to receive the award was not there, the award was still on display.

While no one actually won the award, it was still talked about. Superintendent Hodge did confirm that a band member had the last name 'Hernandez.'

"This was completely embarrassing for parents, kids, and the school district. The Band Director, Shannon Chandler, is held fully responsible for this because kids will do what kids are allowed to do," said Hodge.

Hodge met with the band director on Thursday and informed him of unpaid suspension until the end of the school year.

The Band Directory, Shannon Chandler, issued the following apology on Facebook:

Dear Valley Band Students 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 judgment 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.
Sincerely, Shannon Chandler

The students who put together the gift realized the errors of their ways and called the Hernandez family to apologize, before notifying the school.

Superintendent Hodge also released this statement following the incident:

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.

News Leader 9 reached out to Chandler multiple times to see if he has any further comments about this incident and he has yet to respond.

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