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'Ghetto' awards anger E. Texas middle school parents

Published: Jun. 4, 2015 at 8:05 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 4, 2015 at 8:14 PM CDT
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SULPHUR SPRINGS, TX (KLTV) - Some trouble today for a couple of Sulphur Springs Middle School teachers after they handed out classroom awards to each student bearing the moniker, "The Ghetto Classroom" awards. One student received the "Huh?" award. His grandmother, Debra Jose, was not amused.

"I had to take a second look. I was like, really? How could a teacher put this on there? ...Did she just say ghetto on a certificate that she was giving my grandson?" Jose wondered.

A picture of the award was shared on Facebook. Turned out, other parents didn't 'get the joke' either. It did not take long for Sulphur Springs Superintendent Michael Lamb to hear about it.

Lamb describes his initial reaction, "Shocked. Shocked. Truly, it goes in layers... You kind of ask yourself, had anything else been used, the 'teacher's name' award, would it start to seem more acceptable. The "huh?" award just begs questions. And then the 8th annual brings questions too."

Two teachers' names, Mrs. Garner and Mr. Couch, are on the certificate, as well as the principal's. Lamb says the principal did not, in fact, sign them, and was completely unaware of the awards. Mrs. Garner is a second year faculty member.

"I believe she'd done the same in previous district," Lamb says.

But not just in other districts; here, as well.

"It's my understanding the same award was given last year to up to 60 kids."

The school has begun an investigation into these awards and are in the process of meeting with teachers involved as well as students' families.

Lamb wants to offer the benefit of the doubt, saying, "You'd like to think the best, and, as bad as it may seem, you'd hope there's some logical explanation and it's not that bad, and that's part of what were looking into today."

For Jose, what may seem as innocent as a classroom end-of-year celebration brings up a slew of past issues with the use of one word.

"Back in the day, when I was growing up, they segregated us. They put us in a part where they said we were 'ghetto.' If she knew what ghetto meant, she would have never approached that, because, being an African-American, we were always thrown that."

Jose says she's waiting for an apology and is looking forward to seeing what steps the school district takes.

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