A marching band at a high school in Gwinnett County are facing heavy criticism after they spelt out a racial slur rather than the team's name during a football game on Friday.
The incident happened during the game between Brookwood High School and Lakeside High School and saw the band rearrange the name of the team, Broncos, to a derogatory term used to insult black people.
In a letter sent to parents of pupils at the school, Principal William Bo Ford Jr gave an explanation for what happened and apologised for any offence caused.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quotes him as saying:
For those of you who have attended our games, you may have noticed that the sousaphones (a brass instrument similar to a tuba) wear covers in the stands to show school spirit.
The covers spell out BRONCOS and some of them feature our Bronco mascot.
That said, last night during what was already a very busy senior night, we experienced several personnel challenges that resulted in our band director not being on the field when the band took the field.
With that in mind, when the sousaphone players took the field, they did not follow band rules and normal practice, and instead, they left the covers on their instruments.
Not only was the appearance of this term during our half time show hurtful and disrespectful to audience members, it also was disappointing, as it does not reflect the standards and beliefs of our school and community.
Ford added on Monday that following an investigation, the four students, two black, one Asian and one Hispanic, admitted to planning the prank and will be disciplined.
I am hurt and disappointed in these students and their actions that have stunned our community.
As you all know, this is not who we are. Brookwood is proud to be an inclusive and accepting school community.
This is a teachable moment for all of us, and students need to be aware that their actions and words have consequences.
However, parents at the school are hoping that they receive a more severe punishment, such as expulsion would be justified.
Shawn Meyers, whose son is a freshman in the band has reportedly said that he is too uncomfortable to return to school, told Fox 5:
You’re bold enough on senior night, that means your parents and grandparents are there … you’re bold enough to spell those words, and stay long enough to have everyone take pictures? That's not right.
Haven’t heard it [the slur] in years, it’s to belittle black people, it’s an insult. It’s just like saying the N-word, but this is worse because it’s coming from students at a public high school.
I don’t even know if this is a black-white issue because my understanding is a couple of them were not white, so they just did something that was wrong and they need to be held accountable.
I want them expelled. I will not stop until these students are expelled. They do not need to be back in that school until they learn that everyone is there for the same reason — regardless of colour — to get an education.