High school halftime show racial slur was planned prank

Several students involved in spelling out a racial slur during a marching band performance in Georgia over the weekend have admitted to planning the whole thing, according to the school district.

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Update 3:15 p.m. EDT Nov. 5: Four Brookwood High School marching band members planned the prank Friday night where they spelled a racial slur during the halftime show.

Following an investigation Monday, Principal William Bo Ford Jr. released the following statement:

"As promised, we started an investigation into this matter, and I wanted to share with you our current findings and the steps we are taking with the students who were involved. After extensive interviews with many students, we have determined that three seniors intentionally planned and executed the use of the sousaphone covers to spell out a completely unacceptable, racist term. The fourth student, a junior, who carried one of the letters spelling out the word, appears to have gone along with the plan at the last minute. However, all four of the students knew what was going to happen and knew what they were spelling out during the halftime show. In our interviews, the students-- two of whom are African American, one of whom is Asian, and one of whom is Hispanic - indicated that this was intended as a joke, one that they thought would be funny. However, they acknowledged that they knew this racist term was not acceptable. We have identified two other students who do not appear to be involved in the planning and execution but did provide false information to school officials. All six of these students will receive discipline consequences commensurate with their involvement in this incident."

Original report: The halftime show at the Friday night football game between Gwinnett County's Brookwood High and DeKalb County's Lakeside High had spectators talking about more than the score.

Some band members assembled themselves to spell out the word "coon" using instrument covers that are normally used to spell "broncos," the school mascot.

In a letter to students, parents and the community Brookwood Principal William Bo Ford Jr. apologized for the “completely unacceptable, racial term. “

A concerned resident sent a photo and a copy of the letter to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Ford explained how the incident took place:

“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. Our band does not wear these covers on the field because they shield the sound and because during the halftime show our band members move around the field and do not stand in the same order as they do in the stands. 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.”

In the apology, Ford said, the event is under investigation there will be “disciplinary action with the students involved.”

He wrote:

“Not only was the appearance of this term during our halftime 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. We are a very inclusive community and we care about all of our students. We are concerned that this situation occurred and are committed to taking steps to ensure this does not happen again.”

Ford didn’t mention if there will be any actions taken against school staff but said halftime procedures will be reviewed.

Gwinnett County Schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach said she doesn’t anticipate any action with staff and couldn’t “speculate as to discipline for students as the school’s investigation is still ongoing.”

WSBTV.com contributed to this report.

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