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Parents react after controversial photos surface from 'man pageant' at Kentucky high school

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Posted at 12:40 PM, Oct 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-27 18:50:31-04

HAZARD, Ky. (LEX 18) — An investigation is underway after controversial photos from an event at Hazard High School are causing outrage.

As part of homecoming week activities, Tuesday was costume day and a "man pageant" was held. Multiple photos were posted and then taken down from the Hazard High School athletics page. They appear to show scantily clad students giving lap dances to faculty and staff.

Others showed female students dressed in "Hooters" costumes and students and staff appear to spank or paddle each other.

Pictures of the event were posted on the Hazard High School Athletics Facebook page.

Many parents took to social media to address their frustrations. "As a mother myself, I wouldn't want my son involved in such actions," one woman tells LEX 18. Another woman said it's not a representation of what pageants are and found it "demeaning in many ways."

One person featured in the photo was Hazard High School Principal Donald "Happy" Mobelini. He is also the mayor of Hazard.

The Kentucky Department of Education says they are aware of the incident and has been in contact with the superintendent.

"Under state law, superintendents have a duty to report any instances of educator misconduct to the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB)," says KDE in a statement. "If an investigation finds a certified educator likely violated the Kentucky Educator Code of Ethics, they are required to report this to EPSB. Here is a link to the Code of Ethics, as defined by: 16 KAR 1:020: https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/law/kar/016/001/020.pdf."

"If any citizen of Commonwealth feels that that Kentucky’s educator Code of Ethics was violated by a certified educator, they can also file a written complaint with the EPSB by email to epsbeducatorethics@education.ky.gov."

Hazard mom Jenna Smith has a family member at the high school and kids in the district.

She says the event should have been shut down the moment an adult realized students were undressing.

"I think that they should have at that point said, ‘Hey, I know this is a joke. But let's stop. This is inappropriate’" said Smith.

Mom Hollie Layne disagrees.

"It has been taken completely out of context,” Layne says. “There are only photos being shown on the internet, no videos. The photos don't show the teachers pushing the children off of them."

Layne's son and his friends participated in the homecoming event.

She says pushing the limits and embarrassing teachers is part of the fun.

"If everybody is perfect then I would say yeah, maybe we do need to rethink something,” Layne said. “But until somebody can prove that something is going on here other than just homecoming week and teenagers being teenagers then I will support my kids."

"The way that I think about it, is I think that, yes, the kids should just be kids, and they should be allowed to have fun,” Smith said. “But is giving a lap dance or witnessing somebody else give an adult a lap dance? Is that a child-appropriate activity? And to me, it is not."

Layne says she doesn't believe a line was crossed.

Hazard County Schools Superintendent Sandra Combs, shared in a statement that appropriate disciplinary action has been taken following the investigation.

"First, I wish to address some questions around the incident. The activities were part of Homecoming festivities and were driven by the students. We strive to foster creativity in our students, but unfortunately, this time it was carried too far. Spirit Week at Hazard High School has a long and celebrated tradition. Homecoming activities were planned as a celebration for students, staff, and the school community. All were intended to be fun and good-natured however, the activities did not play out as intended. While Homecoming is an annual tradition, there has never been any issue raised prior to this year. Now that an issue has arisen, we are taking this opportunity to review policy and procedures to make certain that it does not happen again."